Fox News Ousts Tucker Carlson

Fox News Ousts Tucker Carlson

©Richard Drew/Associated Press

In a surprise move, Fox News has split from primetime anchor Tucker Carlson after he made derogatory comments about fellow networkers being exposed during a legal battle with a voting machine company.

Mr. Carlson's departure ended more than a decade at the conservative news network, during which he became cable television's highest-rated prime-time news anchor.

Carlson, whose contract expires in 2021, will receive payments for the remainder of the contract, according to people familiar with the matter. According to the source, Mr. Carlson is paid around $20 million a year. According to People, Mr Carlson learned of his sacking about 10 minutes before announcing his departure from the network.

According to a person familiar with the matter, Fox News' parent company CEO Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott decided on Friday that Carlson will leave the network.

Mr. Carlson's departure creates another high-profile opening in the cable news landscape, which has seen some familiar faces leave over the past year and a half. Also on Monday, CNN parted ways with the underrated Don Lemon, who left prime time at 10 p.m. to host the network's new morning show.

Fox News reported Monday that Mr. Carlson's last show was Friday, April 21, and that he would rely on a rotating host until he appoints a permanent host for the 8 p.m. show.

Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmead hosted the show on Monday night. In his opening statement, Kilmead confirmed Carlson's departure, saying he was "a great friend of Tucker's."

An attorney representing Carlson did not respond to a request for comment.

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Fox's decision to let Carlson go comes less than a week after Fox Corp. agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a legal dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. The 2020 US presidential election falls in favor of Joe Biden. Mr. Carlson should testify in court.

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Fox Corporation and News Corp., parent company of The Wall Street Journal. they share common property. Fox shares fell 3% on Monday.

Private messages Mr. Carlson sent to colleagues became public during the Dominion libel trial. Carlson has repeatedly poked fun at on-air guest commentaries, expressed hatred for former President Donald Trump and complained about Fox executives and colleagues.

In a private text message nearly two weeks after Election Day, Mr Carlson and primetime presenters Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity complained about the network's coverage, including the first time the network named Biden's battleground state Arizona the night before. election, a decision that angered some Fox News viewers.

"We dedicated our lives to audience engagement and they let Chris Wallace and Leland fuck the hell Wittert screw it up," Carlson said, according to the document, which quotes two Fox News employees. Mr. Wallace now works for CNN. and Mr. Vittert is a reporter for NewsNation.

"Do executives realize how much trust and credibility we've lost with our audience?" According to court documents, Carlson texted his colleague again.

Fox contradicted Carlson's comments that slandered the network, people familiar with the matter said. They said most of the messages were redacted in court documents but leaked to Fox management.

When a Fox News reporter reviewed one of Trump's Dominion tweets, Carlson also complained to a colleague, "Please fire him," Carlson told Fox News host Sean Hannity, according to the lawsuit. "It's clearly hurting business."

Before Dominion's lawsuit was settled, Supreme Court Justice Eric Davis had already ruled that Fox News and Fox Business had made false allegations about Dominion by network moderators and Trump associates. In a statement announcing the settlement, Fox confirmed the judge's finding.

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Court documents also revealed Carlson's feelings towards Trump. In a January 2021 text message exchange, Carlson said the network was "very close to ignoring Trump most nights," adding, "I hate him passionately" regarding the former president.

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found Trump leading the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. Carlson has recently come under fire from both Democrats and Republicans for showing never-before-seen footage of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Carlson said lawmakers intentionally exaggerated the level of violence. "The footage shows no rioting or rioting on Capitol Hill," Carlson said during a speech in early March.

Mr Carlson is the defendant in a lawsuit filed last month by Abby Grossberg, Mr Carlson's former producer and Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. The lawsuit, which also names Fox and others, says: "Mr. Carlson's snide comments about women and his contempt for those who dare to oppose such misogyny are well known on the set of his show. Fox News fired Ms Grossberg soon after, saying she had complained without taking any steps to protect "pieces of Fox proprietary information." Ms Grossberg's lawyers called her dismissal "retaliation".

In a statement following the announcement of Mr. Carlson's resignation on Monday, Ms. Grossberg's attorneys said, "Tucker Carlson's departure from Fox News is, in part, an admission of lies, threats and conspiracies. What our client claims is systematic.”

Mr. Carlson did not comment on the lawsuit. Fox said at the time that it had engaged an independent outside consultant to investigate the concerns raised by Ms. Grossberg.

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Fox has lost several well-known anchors in recent years, including Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly, who were replaced by Mr. Carlson, who has become the highest-rated prime-time cable news anchor. Primetime shows attract the largest share of viewers for Fox and other cable channels and are a major driver of the network's advertising business.

Mr. Carlson began his career as a writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the conservative Weekly Standard. He rose to national prominence as the host of CNN's Crossfire, where he represented the political right until the show's cancellation in 2005, and had a memorable encounter with the show's then host, Jon Stewart. He also worked for MSNBC and co-founded the conservative website Daily Caller.

During his time at Fox News, Mr. Carlson became a lightning rod for his often controversial comments. On a recent show, Carlson suggested that Justin Pearson, one of the Tennessee lawmakers pushing for stricter gun control, should probably go to elite colleges because he's black.

Carlson also lamented the changes confectionery giant Mars Inc. had made to various M&M mascots, including the decision to change the green M&M shoes from boots to sneakers. In 2018, he faced an advertising boycott after saying on-air that some immigrants were making America "dirtier and more divided." Fox linked the Carlson boycott to advocacy groups encouraging brands to advertise online.

In addition to his nightly presence on Fox News, Mr. Carlson is also known for Fox Nation, the news channel's live streaming service. He published special news and investigative reports on the platform.

Email Joe Flint at Joe.Flint@wsj.com, Isabella Simonetti at isabella.simonetti@wsj.com, and Keach Hagey at Keach.Hagey@wsj.com.

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