For years, Fox News host Tucker Carlson has been criticized for exaggerating racist and anti-immigrant ideas. But those issues don’t appear to have anything to do with his death.
Instead, the growing controversy over Carlson’s conduct on and off the air began to irritate Fox News executives, and the network abruptly announced his departure yesterday.
Network leaders and contributors, some of whom have resigned, have complained about Carlson’s misleading coverage of the Jan. 6 attack, in which he described rioters as “mostly peaceful” bystanders. His coverage of the 2020 election conspiracy theory is part of a Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox that the network settled last week. As The Washington Post reported, Carlson also privately discredited Fox executives, saying they had damaged the network’s credibility by allowing Fox to cover President Biden’s election victory.
A former producer recently accused Carlson in a lawsuit of overseeing a misogynistic and discriminatory workplace. Fox disputed her account.
As one of the top anchors on the most-watched CNN network, Carlson has played a huge role in conservative politics. Today’s newsletter explores Carlson’s influence and what his exit means for Fox News.
a large audience
Carlson took over Fox News’ valuable 8 p.m. slot in 2017 and boosted its already high ratings, quickly becoming a fixture on right-wing networks and conservative politics.
how? Carlson tapped into white audiences’ fears about the country’s changing racial demographics, which fueled the rise of Donald Trump in the 2016 election. He would often focus on the concept of the “Great Replacement,” a racist conspiracy theory that claims elites are importing supposedly compliant immigrants to disempower native-born Americans. In 2018, Carlson argued that hordes of immigrants were making America “poorer and dirtier.”
Carlson often highlighted local news reports but twisted them into a broader narrative that Americans had lost control of their country. In a 2017 clip, he claimed that “gypsies” were causing chaos and defecating in the streets of a small Pennsylvania town.
“The message of the clips is always the same: you and your way of life are under attack by someone who looks different and has different values than you,” said my colleague Nicholas Confessore, who covers Carr for The Times. Sen’s rise, told me yesterday. “Carlson assured viewers that their discomfort was justified — that they didn’t have to feel sorry for their fears and concerns.”
Carlson does this by embracing Trumpism rather than Trump himself. This approach is partly personal. In a private text message, Carlson said of Trump, “I hate him so much.” That also helped Carlson stand out from other Fox News hosts, Nicholas said. Because of their close relationship with Trump, hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham often had to defend Trump when he said outrageous things. Carlson tries to avoid these pitfalls by focusing on the underlying message rather than Trump as his public persona.
Fox’s predominantly white audience embraced Carlson’s approach, and he drew more than 3 million viewers a night, often making his shows No. 1 or No. 2 on the network. While accusations of bigotry and lies drove sponsors to flee Fox, Carlson’s shows boosted ad dollars because of the large viewership.
Carlson did not say what he would do next. But he probably wouldn’t have had as much of an impact without that huge audience.
Fox News said it would rotate hosts during the 8 p.m. slot until a permanent replacement is found. At first glance, this might seem like a bad thing for the network: Not only has it lost one of its biggest stars, but it doesn’t have a replacement. The announcement comes as Fox has faced months of negative publicity and just agreed to a $787.5 million settlement in the Dominion lawsuit.
But Fox has overcome similar challenges with its hosts before. Carlson himself replaced Bill O’Reilly, who was once the network’s most popular host, not only maintaining O’Reilly’s ratings, but sometimes even surpassing O’Reilly’s. The experience may have convinced Fox that the network has more influence on viewers than individual hosts.
Nicholas pointed out that former Fox executive Roger Ailes used to sit his prime-time stars for one night to show them that ratings were still high after they left—suggesting that Fox made them big. “I suspect viewers may be more loyal to Fox than viewers are to any particular Fox star,” he added.
other big stories
Addiction is not as simple as a lack of control, maya sarawitz debate. Understanding its impact may help make drug policy more useful.
The Chinese government’s attempt to rewrite Hong Kong’s struggle for independence is an act of repression, Louisa Lynn debate.
this is the column maureen dodd in ron desantis and Paul Krugman About NIMBY.
try a popular song
Did Ed Sheeran copy his Grammy-winning ballad “Thinking Out Loud” from Marvin Gaye’s soul classic “Let’s Get It On”? That issue is at the heart of a copyright trial that began yesterday in Manhattan federal court.
Due to a quirk of music copyrights, the case depends mostly on the song’s chord progressions, which, as this video comparison shows, are nearly identical. But Sheeran’s lawyers argue that the chords are common in popular music — including in songs by artists who used them before Gaye and Ed Townsend, who collaborated with him on “Let’s Get It On.”