Why Tucker Carlson Was Really Fired by Fox News, New Book Reveals
Former chairman Rupert Murdoch reportedly decided to let him go for two key reasons.
When Tucker Carlson and Fox News parted ways in April 2023, the news came as a shock to fans and critics alike. After all, Tucker Carlson Tonight was a hugely popular show on the network that regularly brought in three million viewers. When the announcement was made, no official reason was given for Carlson's departure, but in the days that followed, several claims emerged about what had really happened behind the scenes.
The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, a new book by Michael Wolff, digs deeper into the drama at the network, including how then-Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch came to the decision of firing Carlson, despite liking him personally.
On day after New York Magazine published an excerpt of Wolff's book concerning Carlson's departure from the network, it was announced that Murdoch will be stepping down as the chairman of Fox Corporation and News Corp. The 92-year-old's son, Lachlan Murdoch, will become the new chair of News Corp. and will continue to be the executive chair and CEO of Fox Corporation, as reported by ABC News.
Read on to find out more about Carlson's firing and the role Murdoch played.
Several theories about Carlson's firing were reported earlier this year.
After Carlson's shocking exit from Fox News, Vanity Fair reported that Murdoch may have been upset by a speech Carlson gave about his Christian and conservative beliefs at the Heritage Foundation's 50th Anniversary gala three days before he was let go. The host reportedly said that those who didn't agree with his beliefs were "advocating for…evil." A source told Vanity Fair, "That stuff freaks Rupert out. He doesn't like all the spiritual talk."
Another theory in the Vanity Fair report is that Murdoch wanted to get back at his ex-fiancée, Ann Lesley Smith, who was a big fan of Carlson's and reportedly referred to him as a "messenger from God." Taking Tucker Carlson Tonight off the air would be canceling his ex's favorite show.
Other theories involved the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News. The company sued the network for defamation regarding on-air claims that their technology assisted in "stealing" the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. Not had Carlson been one of the anchors who accused Dominion of this on his show, but The Guardian also reported that texts he had sent insulting Fox News co-workers and criticizing Trump were revealed in court documents.
Murdoch decided that offering Carlson up would have a bigger impact.
According to Wolff's book, Carlson's firing was related to the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit, but not in the way that was first reported. Instead, the book claims that Carlson was sacrificed as part of the settlement, because Murdoch did not want his monetary settlement with Dominion to go beyond $1 billion.
Per the book, Carlson met with Murdoch and Smith for dinner prior to the decision and the meal "reinforced for Murdoch that he really did like Tucker."
Wolff wrote, "He liked him much better than he liked [Sean] Hannity, whom he didn't like at all. But there was, too, a sense that the problems he created were greater than his value. Among his children, the Fox backlash could often seem to be Tucker backlash. Without him, you might take down the Fox temperature by what? Twenty percent? Thirty percent? Maybe more? This was a Murdoch calculation: How much could you cool things and still have Fox be Fox?"
Carlson was let go, and Fox settled with Dominion for $787.5 million.
The book claims Hannity was on the chopping block.
Wolff claims that the initial plan was for Hannity to be fired instead of Carlson.
"There was also a sweetener: putting Hannity on the table," Wolff wrote. "The Fox News host would be fired concurrently with the settlement. Murdoch had always wanted to get rid of Hannity, and perhaps MAGA insider Hannity's scalp would make Dominion more likely to accept a nine-figure settlement? It was a thing they might have done without this suit, and might do in the future anyway." Wolff explained further, "[I]t would be a gentleman's agreement. There would be no official side letter about firing Hannity, no real acknowledgment even in the settlement that they were doing this as part of the deal."
The plan reportedly changed when it was determined that Carlson was a more impactful choice. "Hannity had been offered as a sweetener," the book says. But Carlson, the ratings leader, increasingly the real, hard-core face of the new demagogic right wing, was sweeter."
Murdoch also didn't like Carlson's supposed presidential ambitions.
The Fall states that Carlson had become interested in running for president, which Murdoch was not happy about. The Fox News boss was attempting to support Florida governor Ron DeSantis over Trump, of whom he is not a fan. Meanwhile, Carlson reportedly didn't care for DeSantis.
"If the field was Trump, DeSantis, and various hopeful brand builders and gadflies, then Carlson, the second-most-famous person on the right—with that new political X factor, a television persona—might realistically become a true MAGA-friendly Trump alternative himself," Wolff wrote.
Of Murdoch's thoughts on the matter, the book adds, "More and more, though, he was bothered by the reports that Carlson might run for president. It seemed ludicrous—like Trump running for president."
Carlson gave his own opinion of why he was let go.
A biography of Carlson, Tucker by Chadwick Moore, was published in August. In the book, Carlson weighs in on why he believes he was fired from Fox News, and it aligns with Wolff's take.
"They agreed to take me off the air, my show off the air, as a condition of the Dominion settlement," Carlson told Moore, as reported by The Guardian. "They had to settle this; Rupert couldn't testify. I think that deal was made minutes before the trial started. I mean, I know it was."
When the news about Carlson's show going off the air was announced in April, Fox News released a brief statement: "FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor. Mr. Carlson's last program was Friday April 21st. Fox News Tonight will air live at 8 PM/ET starting this evening as an interim show helmed by rotating FOX News personalities until a new host is named."
In May, The Hill reported that both Dominion and Fox News denied that Carlson's firing was a condition of the settlement. A Dominion spokesperson told Best Life of Wolff's claims, "Dominion and Fox News have both already gone on the record to confirm this claim is categorically false. Any suggestion otherwise is simply not true."
Reached for comment about The Fall, a Fox spokesperson provided the following statement: "The fact that this author's books are spoofed by Saturday Night Live is really all we need to know."
Best Life has also reached out to Carlson for comment.
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