In a surprise announcement on Monday, Fox News announced it had severed its relationship with Prime Time host Tucker Carlson.
“Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,” the network said in a statement. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.”
Carlson had given no indication during his last broadcast on Friday evening that he intended to leave the news channel, telling his viewers that he’d return to the airwaves, as usual, for his Monday evening broadcast.
Carlson’s departure comes less than a week after Fox settled a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, which sued the network for allegedly airing false claims about the 2020 election.
Fox News ultimately agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million to resolve the lawsuit, without having to issue an apology for the statements in question.
As part of discovery, Dominion sought out internal communications at Fox News, some of which were made public. According to The Washington Post, those communications included text messages from Carlson. The news host expressed skepticism of election-fraud claims made on air by Trump’s attorneys and allegedly claimed to “passionately” hate the former president.
Carlson, 53, first emerged as a right-wing pundit as a writer for the Weekly Standard magazine, eventually moving to CNN’s long-heralded public policy debate show Crossfire, where he became more of a household name.
He later hosted a prime-time show on liberal-leaning MSNBC and co-founded the conservative Daily Caller website before landing a Prime Time slot at Fox News shortly after the 2016 election.
Within a few years, Carlson had eclipsed his 9 p.m. counterpart, Sean Hannity, as the network’s most-watched host, netting an average of more than 3 million viewers a night.
His show also became a platform for conservative politicians, including former President Trump, to get their message out to a friendly audience and further their political ambitions.
Carlson’s relentless focus on culture-war issues as part of his nightly shows helped him gain traction among a growing segment of right-wing populists who saw the Trump administration as an ally against big government, “Big Tech,” mainstream media, and liberal elites who do not share their political, religious, or social values.
Carlson, who works from a remote studio in Maine, has yet to comment publicly on his departure.
According to the Post, Carlson’s executive producer, Justin Wells — who is gay, a fact highlighted by some LGBTQ outlets, given Carlson’s use of anti-LGBTQ talking points during his show — is also leaving the network.
Moving forward, the 8 p.m. time slot on Fox News, which was occupied by Carlson’s show, will be filled on an interim basis by “rotating Fox News personalities” until a new host is named.
News of Carlson’s unexpected departure broke on the same day that CNN anchor Don Lemon tweeted that he had learned from his agent that he had been terminated from his position at the 24-hour news channel.
While it is unclear what Carlson’s next venture will be, the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, where Carlson once served as a copy editor and fact checker, offered itself as a potential landing place on Friday, well before news of his departure dropped.
According to The Hill, Kevin Roberts, the think tank’s president, told Carlson, who spoke at a Heritage event on Friday, “If things go south for Fox News, there’s always a job for you here.”
Carlson reportedly replied, “You’ve saved me before.”
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