Laughing hysterically as he ate from pizza boxes spread out on the set, Carlson signed off with the words: “We’ll be back on Monday.”
He would not.
Just after 11am on Monday, Fox News said in a statement it had agreed to “part ways” with the right-wing extremist effective immediately.
Reports in the Los Angeles Times suggest that Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch had personally decided to pull the trigger on his top-rating prime-time host, with input from the board and senior executives. He was reportedly informed on Monday morning.
It came six days after the network settled its defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5m over its embrace and promotion of lies that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
Some had smelled blood in the water at Fox after Dominion’s lawsuit had revealed its hosts’ contempt for their audience by platforming guests that they privately disparaged.
Murdoch’s son Lachlan, the Fox Corporation CEO, had been Carlson’s staunchest defender at the network, according to insider accounts, as advertisers fled from his show.
It’s not yet known what brought about the departure, and if and when that comes to light, it could have a bearing on Carlson’s next move.
The Washington Post suggested it was due to unflattering statements he had made about Fox’s executives that emerged during discovery in the Dominion lawsuit.
Sources told The LA Times it was connected to a separate lawsuit filed by Carlson’s former producer Abby Grossberg.
Ms Grossberg’s attorney Tanvir Rahman said in a statement that his removal was “in part, an admission of the systemic lying, bullying, and conspiracy-mongering claimed by our client”. Carlson is still named as an individual defendant in that suit.
With the abrupt departure from Fox, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson has now been fired from all three major cable news channels.
His axing brought waves of schadenfreude from his many critics on social media.
Pundits openly pondered where the right-wing firebrand — who gained a loyal following of millions while espousing racist, anti-immigrant, homophobic and transphobic beliefs — might end up after his dismissal.
Carlson is yet to directly address his departure, but he has already received at least one job offer.
RT, the Russian state-controlled television network often described as a propaganda channel for Vladimir Putin’s government, tweeted to him on Tuesday: “Hey Tucker Carlson, you can always question more with RT.”
On Monday, Carlson began teasing news of his next move on his website, asking people to provide their email address and phone number “to become a tuckercarlson.com insider to find out what Tucker’s up to next”.
If he decides to remain in media, the fates of a few other Fox exiles may offer a blueprint for his next role.
With his millions of loyal fans, Carlson may decide to launch his own streaming, podcast or radio show.
He has form as a media entrepreneur, having founded the Washington DC-based right-wing news and opinion website the Daily Caller in 2010.
The new venture’s success would depend on how many of his Fox audience followed him.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote on Tuesday that Glenn Beck was “perhaps the most obvious parallel” to Carlson.
“Each host had a show in prime time that he used to push the envelope on what was acceptable in cable news. Each built massive audiences as a result, earning status as the de facto voice of the American right wing.”
In 2017, Bill O’Reilly was forced out over claims of sexual harassment by female staff at the network.
The company had previously stood by the top-rating host while paying out around $13m to five women who accused O’Reilly of inappropriate behaviour, the New York Times revealed. But an internal investigation uncovered further allegations of abuse, and he was fired.
O’Reilly, who did not respond to a request for comment for this article, formed his No Spin News podcast and radio show in 2020. But after years as an influential cable news host, he has largely remained in the media wilderness since leaving Fox.
Another former Fox host, Megyn Kelly, who departed in 2017, was hired by NBC to host a daytime television show. The show was cancelled just over a year later after a controversial “blackface” discussion on the show.
Kelly now hosts a talkshow and podcast on SiriusXM.
Other options would be a move to Fox’s much smaller rivals on the right, Newsmax and One America News. Newsmax hired another former Fox host, Eric Bolling.
Those networks would give Carlson the editorial freedom to continue his crusades against Big Tech, the Deep State and social media censorship. But he may have less clout and influence.
Carlson, as an heir to a frozen fish empire, is also independently wealthy. Plus, he was earning $10m a year at Fox in 2020, according to former CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter.
In 2021, Carlson signed a new multiyear deal with Fox News to produce shows for the network’s streaming service Fox Nation under the title Tucker Carlson Originals.
No further information was revealed about how long he had left on his contract, or whether he will receive a severance from Fox.
Carlson has also reinvented himself as something of a lifestyle brand.
Next to a picture of him wearing a plaid shirt and carrying a rifle, he sells his own personally-branded clothing, gold accessories and camo-coloured beverage coolers.
Canvas travel bags with his name embroidered in are available for $165, a set of playing cards costs $15, while a Lord Fauci Patron Saint of Wuhan coffee mug goes for $15.
‘Tucker goes to Iowa’
Last July, Tucker Carlson raised eyebrows when he gave the keynote address at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa.
The conservative conference is an important staging post for prospective presidential candidates, given Iowa’s position as the first state in the nation to hold a Republican Party caucus.
He promoted the appearance on Twitter with “Tucker goes to Iowa” presidential-style buttons.
During the 40-minute speech, broadcast on Fox’s streaming service Fox Nation, Carlson argued that today’s politicians were “simple organisms” who promoted the idea that “your family is worthless compared to loyalty to your employer and a political party.”
“Could it be that Tucker Carlson will be the man to unite Americans under a platform of data, common sense and their own voices?” asked the Daily Caller.
“Maybe. Either that, or it’s an epic troll.”
While Carlson is yet to comment on his future, he has not done anything to tamp down rumours of his political ambitions, and is listed as a “guest moderator” at the 2023 edition of the Family Leadership Summit to be held in July.
Since selling his home in Washington DC when it was targeted by protesters in 2018, Carlson has split his time between his primary residence in Palm Beach, Florida, and a second home in Maine.
The many faces of Tucker Carlson
The 53-year-old hosted Crossfire on CNN for four years from 2001, before a memorable run-in with comedian Jon Stewart led the then-CNN president Jonathan Klein to cancel the show in 2005.
Carlson briefly hosted Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered on PBS from 2004 to 2005. That year he announced he was moving to MSNBC to front an early evening show The Situation With Tucker Carlson.
This was nixed by the left-leaning network in March 2008 due to poor ratings, it said at the time.
In 2009, he was hired as a Fox News contributor where he made regular appearances on Sean Hannity and Greg Gutfield’s shows, and filled in for Hannity as a host.
Carlson then began hosting his 8pm Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight in November 2016, after O’Reilly was forced out.
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