Why there's likely more to Tucker Carlson's firing than just racist texts

The former Fox anchor's lamentation over "how white men fight" was reportedly the pivotal moment in his dismissal by the network. But is that the whole story?

Tucker Carlson
(Image credit: Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On the night of Jan. 6, 2021, just hours after a mob of violent supporters of former President Donald Trump had breached the Capitol building in the culmination of a months-long effort to subvert the results of the presidential election, Tucker Carlson was up late, texting with the producer of his eponymous Fox News program. In and of itself, this is hardly remarkable — as the network's top broadcaster, it's perfectly understandable that Carlson and his team would be awake, discussing the day's historic significance and meaning. But as The New York Times reported, Carlson's messages would later prompt "a panic at the highest levels of Fox" when they were uncovered two years later — just as the company was set to defend itself against a massive defamation lawsuit for knowingly airing false claims of 2020 election fraud.

Within days of discovering the texts, Fox would settle its case with Dominion Voting Systems, and fire Carlson shortly thereafter. These seismic decisions to pay nearly $800 million, and then dismiss its biggest star came, the Times claimed, as "the board grew concerned that the message could become public at trial when Mr. Carlson was on the stand, creating a sensational and damaging moment that would raise broader questions about the company." While not the sole reason for his firing, the text nevertheless "contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to" his ouster. But while the text displayed racism and bloodlust — even as Carlson seemed to grapple with the morality of the latter — it was not, as many have since observed, any more extreme or incendiary than his nightly broadcasts.

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Rafi Schwartz, The Week US

Rafi Schwartz has worked as a politics writer at The Week since 2022, where he covers elections, Congress and the White House. He was previously a contributing writer with Mic focusing largely on politics, a senior writer with Splinter News, a staff writer for Fusion's news lab, and the managing editor of Heeb Magazine, a Jewish life and culture publication. Rafi's work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GOOD and The Forward, among others.