Media insiders would often gossip about which anchor was about to leave Fox News. None of them guessed Tucker Carlson.
- The Dominion lawsuit was an embarrassment to Fox, airing text messages the company would rather have kept private.
- Many thought Fox would make some sort of sacrifice, firing an executive to take the fall.
Like a plot twist in "Succession," the departure of Tucker Carlson from Fox News is one we didn't see coming.
The conservative media giant announced today that it had agreed to part ways with Carlson, days after Fox News settled Dominion's lawsuit over broadcasting election lies for $787 million.
"We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor," the company said in a short statement.
Carlson seemed to have no idea his Friday show was his last, telling viewers he'd be "back on Monday." The news of Carlson's departure almost immediately wiped close to $1 billion off of Fox Corporation's market capitalization.
It's not clear what went on between that show on Friday and today, or why Carlson is leaving.
In one particularly striking exchange, Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity unloaded on their colleagues, with Carlson texting "we devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland f*****g Vittert wreck it."
The LA Times meanwhile reported Carlson's exit is linked to a lawsuit in which ex-producer Abby Grossman accused him and Fox News executives of running a workplace that "subjugates women." Fox News has denied her allegations, saying her legal claims have no merit.
It could also be something else entirely. Whatever the reason, his exit is especially striking given many in the media industry had expected someone senior to be ousted from Fox News.
Back in March, media columnist Dylan Byers for example asked whether Fox Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan would make a "blood sacrifice," where a key executive or anchor would be removed from their role to help make a problem go away. This was weeks before the Dominion settlement.
Byers said at the time:
As of now, there is no indication that anyone is on the chopping block at Fox News. But it's not hard to see who might be in line for a sacrifice in the event that things get worse: [Suzanne] Scott, the chief executive, would of course be the most obvious candidate to play the Rebekah Brooks role this time around. And on the talent side, there are the three hosts in addition to [Lou] Dobbs who Murdoch identified as endorsers of the voter fraud lie: Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro. (On Tuesday, Trump accused Murdoch of "throwing his anchors under the table.")
There was no mention of Carlson in Byers' story, nor were there others who thought he could be on his way out.
Carlson was Fox's brightest star, pulling in huge audiences at a time when cable networks have been hemorrhaging viewers. He was considered by most to be untouchable. What's clear for now is that media watchers are in shock.
Upon confirmation that Carlson had left Fox, veteran media reporter Sarah Ellison simply wrote: "Incredible."
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