Monday was a tough day for political TV hosts.
Tucker Carlson, one of rightwing voters’ favorite political talk show hosts, and Don Lemon, one of the most recognizable hosts at CNN, both were fired on Monday. Both hosts were popular with political junkies around Alabama.
The abrupt departure of Carlson, Fox News’ most-watched host, stunned viewers and the media and came with no hint that the network was considering a move. Carlson is often criticized for playing fast and loose with facts – and for outright lying to viewers at times – but his antics seemed to be acceptable to Fox News executives, who found his high ratings an acceptable trade-off.
However, that changed abruptly, according to the Los Angeles Times, which cited sources at Fox, saying the decision to fire Carlson was ultimately made by Fox Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and was at least partly related to Carlson’s coverage – and his continued spreading of false information – about the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The ultimate decision, according to the Times, came after Murdoch held discussions with board members and Murdoch’s son, Lachlan, the executive chairman of Fox Corp., and also was at least partly based on a recently filed lawsuit by a former producer for Carlson’s show. The former producer alleges that she was bullied and subjected to anti semitic comments repeatedly while working on the show.
Carlson’s last show was Friday, the network said in a statement.
“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.”
Lemon’s ouster, on the other hand, was somewhat less surprising. He had recently been taken off the air following controversial comments in which he said Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley wasn’t in her prime. A lengthy story in Variety followed that suspension and detailed other instances of Lemon’s misogyny and “diva-like antics.”
Lemon apologized and agreed to enter sensitivity training, but many media observers openly speculated that he wouldn’t be able to last. He made it two months.
Lemon announced his firing on Twitter, saying he was “stunned” by the news and claiming that CNN informed him of the decision through his agent.
“After 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly. At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network,” a tweet from Lemon read.
CNN responded shortly thereafter saying that Lemon’s assertions were not true and that he was contacted by the network and given an opportunity to talk with upper management about the decision. CNN said that Lemon “instead released a statement on Twitter.”
Whatever Lemon’s problems were, they never contributed to the network forking over nearly a billion dollars in settlement money to end a defamation lawsuit.
Carlson was one of the primary drivers of false information about Dominion Voting Systems – a frequently cited villain in the never-ending charade to proclaim Donald Trump was cheated out of the 2020 presidential election. Those phony claims led to Fox News forking over $787 million to Dominion. There is another lawsuit from voting machine manufacturer Smartmatic set to begin soon, and legal experts believe Fox could be staring at another significant payout — much of it due to Carlson’s false claims.
Making matters even worse, thanks to the discovery process in the Dominion lawsuit, the public was provided Carlson’s true thoughts on the alleged stolen election. And those thoughts, revealed through his text message exchanges with colleagues, showed Carlson knew the claims were bogus and outright lies – and that the “experts” welcomed on his show and others were spreading lies – but pushed them for ratings.
Even more disturbing, the texts showed Carlson criticizing the network and the actual reporters and news anchors at Fox for undercutting what he knew to be lies about the election and Jan. 6 insurrection by telling the truth or correcting inaccuracies.