Fox News said on Monday it had fired the most popular primetime host Tucker Carlson, one of the most influential voices on the American right.
Mr. Carlson’s departure has shocked both inside Fox News and the larger conservative media world, where he has power like no one else to elevate candidates and controversies on his 8 p.m. show “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” .
Fox said his last show was on Friday. Two people briefed on the circumstances of his departure said Mr. Carlson was only informed Monday morning that he had left the network.
The show has become a must-see for conservatives during Donald J. Trump’s presidency. Donald J. Trump is an ideological ally and occasional confidant of Mr. Carlson. Both have helped push hard-right positions on issues like immigration reform and race relations into the Republican mainstream, and both like to antagonize their political opponents with bold and often inauthentic attacks.
In recent weeks, however, Mr. Carlson and his show have been thrown into turmoil. He would be a star witness in Dominion Voting Systems’ trial of a multibillion-dollar defamation suit against Fox News, until the network’s abrupt $787.5 million settlement last week.
Fox issued a terse statement of thanks for the announcement late Monday morning. “Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We thank him for his service to the network as host and prior to that as a contributor,” the network statement said.
Mr. Carlson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
His status in the network quickly seemed to be untenable. Fox has been promoting an interview Mr. Carlson will conduct Monday with Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republican 2024 presidential candidate.
Fox News host Harris Faulkner said on the air Monday that starting that night, the temporary show “Fox News Tonight” will air at 8 p.m. host”.
It wasn’t just Mr. Carlson’s words on the radio that got him in trouble. As part of a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox, his private messages with producers who have vulgarly and sexistly discredited Mr. Trump and his legal counsel following the 2020 election. In one exchange with staff, Mr. Carlson sent a text about Mr. Trump: “I hate him so much.” In another post, he called Mr. Trump — who often appears on his show Praise him in “Demonic Power, Destroyer”.
Late last month, one of his former producers filed a lawsuit against Fox, alleging that Mr. Carlson ran a toxic workplace.
His departure ended the rapid and controversial rise of the conservative news and opinion channel, which Mr. Carlson was promoted to prime time in late 2016 and quickly became one of the leading media stars of the Trump era.
More than any other Fox host, Mr. Carlson has tapped into the cultural anxieties and racial grievances of the former president’s political base to appeal to viewers. He warned his audience that they were being attacked by liberal elites and unchecked immigration, and he borrowed some of his central themes from white nationalist and far-right networks and recast them for a more mainstream audience. grooming.
When Fox launched its streaming network, Fox Nation, to generate more revenue from its most loyal fans, it was Mr. Carlson who headlined the new platform, with a thrice-weekly talk show and regular documentaries Double down on his themes: duplicitous elites and race-obsessed liberals.
During his prime at Fox, he despised the network’s top leadership while cultivating among colleagues the impression that he was on good terms with the Murdoch family, most notably Fox Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch. Although in sworn testimony as part of the Dominion lawsuit, Mr. Carlson said the two men were not particularly close. Asked how often he communicated with Lachlan Murdoch, Mr. Carlson replied: “Very rarely.” He added, “It’s not once a week, not even once a month.”
He also used his position to bully and pressure his more junior colleagues in journalism when they challenged the show’s powerful opinion hosts or accurately reported the 2020 election results.
In a recent lawsuit filed by one of his former Fox producers, Abby Grossberg, she accused Mr. Carlson of presiding over a misogynistic and discriminatory workplace culture. Ms. Grossberg said in the lawsuit filed in March that on her first day working for Mr. Carlson, she found the workspace decorated with a large photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a low-cut swimsuit.
Ms. Grossberg, who said Mr. Carlson’s staff routinely used vulgar female language, was called into the office of a top producer and asked if Maria Bartiromo had worked with her before Fox Business host had sex. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.
Ms. Grosberg also alleges that after she was coerced by Fox’s lawyers into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion case and defending Mr. Carlson’s offensive text, his producers emailed other employees, In recognition of “Abby’s Day” and suggested ordering a staff lunch to celebrate.
Fox disputed Ms Grosberg’s claims. She was fired after filing a lawsuit. “We will continue to vigorously defend Fox against Ms. Grossberg’s baseless legal action, which is riddled with false allegations against Fox and our employees,” a spokeswoman said in a recent statement.
“Tucker Carlson Tonight” senior executive producer Justin Wells is also no longer employed by Fox News, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mr. Wells has worked closely with Mr. Carlson since it aired in primetime in 2016.
In recent years, Carlson, 53, has expanded his platform and expanded his influence within the network, convincing people that he is somehow untouchable. He signed a new deal with Fox News in 2021 to expand into a podcast and series called “Tucker Carlson Originals” on the streaming service Fox Nation.
In 2022, he gave an interview with the upstart media outlet Semafor, in which he bragged about how he operates with virtual autonomy at Fox. “I don’t clear anything with anyone. I’m late on scripts,” Mr. Carlson said.
He’s not the first star Fox figure to leave the network after building a massive following — and leaving fans with the impression they’re too big to fail. In 2011, the network launched Tea Party superstar Glenn Beck, whose anti-Obama rhetoric made his show one of the most popular in Fox News history. Two years later, Fox parted ways with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Fox executives said at the time that one factor contributed to the departure more than any other: No one is more important than the network.
Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting.