Tucker Carlson, the conservative firebrand who was fired by Fox News last month, is hoping to make a comeback, courtesy of Twitter. Carlson announced Tuesday he plans to bring a version of his old show to the social media platform. "Starting soon, we'll be bringing a new version of the show we've been doing for the last six and a half years to Twitter," Carlson said in a video shared Tuesday on the platform. "Free speech is the main right you have. Without it, you have no others."
The conservative news network dumped Carlson, then its top prime-time host in the ratings, days after agreeing to pay $787.5 million to settle Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit accusing Fox News of knowingly airing false claims that the company's machines switched some of then-President Donald Trump's votes to President Biden. Carlson stands to lose $25 million in compensation under a non-compete clause in his contract, but he has accused the company of fraud and breach of contract in an apparent bid to void the contract.
Elon Musk, who bought Twitter last year, said the social media platform hadn't signed a deal with Carlson, and he welcomed other content creators from the right and the left to come to Twitter. Carlson didn't offer details on his plan to launch a show on Twitter, where he has 7.4 million followers. Has Carlson found a way to get back in front of his audience, or is this a recipe for failure?
Carlson is toast... or is he?
There's "something sort of sad" about Carlson's career nosedive, said Justin Peters in Slate. "Three weeks ago, Carlson was riding high as the biggest name on America's most popular cable news network." Then, apparently, he was fired "for being a jerk." Now he's desperately trying to resuscitate his flatlined show by taking it to "a money-losing website that does not actually have shows and is owned by a terminally thirsty dweeb who is desperate to win the approval of opinion leaders such as @catturd2." Carlson's pathetic attempt "to spin this move as an exciting and volitional one" is "like claiming that you're glad to be exiled to Siberia because you've always wanted to learn how to ski."
"Tucker Carlson's acrimonious uncoupling from Fox News might just be the best thing to ever happen to him," said Teri Christoph in RedState. His departure leaves Fox News executives "gnashing their teeth" over how to fill the "gaping hole" he leaves in the heart of prime-time, and "replace him and the ad revenue." But he's "setting off on a new adventure that will make Elon Musk's Twitter the gold standard platform for honest journalists, thought leaders and intrepid content creators." Fox News desperately wants to pay him $20 million to serve out his contract in silence, but Carlson will "make much, much more by taking his show to Twitter, which opens up multiple revenue streams for him." As a bonus, he'll be breaking the establishment media "into a million pieces."
What's good for Carlson isn't necessarily good for Twitter
Carlson's show might "be a jab at his old bosses" at Fox News, said Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times, but "Musk didn't exactly rush to embrace his new star." Linking up with a controversial commentator like Carlson "offers risks as well as rewards for Twitter." He's undeniably popular, as the more than 78 million views (and counting) of his announcement demonstrate. He "could bring more users" to Twitter, and "a successful subscription-only broadcast could also help generate more money for Twitter," boosting its efforts to find sources of revenue beyond ads. But Twitter is still reeling from a "sharp drop" in ad income after national brands fled over "Musk's drastic changes" to Twitter's content policies, and embracing Carlson, "whose Fox News show was shunned by mainstream advertisers, could further hit Twitter's business."
At first glance, "securing a character as popular as Carlson," whose Fox show had three million nightly viewers, appears to be "a big win" for Musk, said Hasan Chowdhury in Business Insider. "Free, Fox-style engagement certainly looks like a big victory for Musk. But if Carlson sticks with Twitter, he could be a big headache." Twitter has bled advertisers since his "debt-fueled $44 billion takeover" last year. And a December analysis estimated suggested Twitter could lose more than 32 million users by 2024 in an exodus of users angered by changes Musk is imposing on the platform. If Carlson's claim that Twitter is "the last remaining bastion of free speech" means he's planning to unleash diatribes on race and politics that even Fox wouldn't tolerate, "it could lead to an exodus" of users Twitter can't afford to lose.