Tucker Carlson departs Fox News, pushed out by Rupert Murdoch

Tucker Carlson gestures while sitting at a desk.
Tucker Carlson speaks at 2022 Fox Nation Patriot Awards in Hollywood, Fla., in November. His last Fox News show was Friday.
(Jason Koerner / Getty Images)

Tucker Carlson, the provocative, conservative prime-time host who sustained Fox News as a ratings juggernaut, has been forced out of the network.

Fox News announced the stunning departure of its top-rated host Monday with no explanation, but people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to comment publicly said the decision to fire Carlson came straight from Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch with input from board members and other Fox Corp. executives.

According to one person familiar with the discussions, Murdoch’s son Lachlan, executive chairman of Fox Corp., and Suzanne Scott, chief executive of Fox News Media, decided late Friday that Carlson had to go.


Carlson’s last show was Friday.

“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.”

The 79-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, raises questions about whether Fox News has sufficiently modernized its workplace culture since co-founder Roger Ailes was forced out in 2016.

March 21, 2023

A Fox News representative had no other details on Carlson’s exit and declined to comment.

Rupert Murdoch elevated Carlson from contributor to daily host in 2016. Carlson moved into prime time in 2017 after the ouster of Bill O’Reilly, the successful longtime host who left amid sexual harassment allegations.

Carlson’s exit is related to the discrimination lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg, a producer fired by the network last month, the sources said. Carlson’s senior executive producer, Justin Wells, has also been terminated, according to insiders.

Grossberg was moved off “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo” and onto “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where she alleged she was bullied and subjected to antisemitic comments, according to a lawsuit in New York.

In deposition testimony, the former Fox News producer also said she was coerced by company lawyers to give misleading answers in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case against the network. Fox News denied the claim and said she was terminated for disclosing privileged company information.

Tucker Carlson, a fixture on conservative cable channel Fox News, exited the network on April 24.

May 9, 2023

In a statement, attorneys for Grossberg suggested her suit was a key factor in Carlson’s exit.


“Tucker Carlson’s departure from Fox News is, in part, an admission of the systemic lying, bullying and conspiracy-mongering claimed by our client, former top producer Abby Grossberg,” said Tanvir Rahman, one of Grossberg’s attorneys. “Mr. Carlson and his subordinates remain individual defendants in the [Southern District of New York] case, and we look forward to taking their depositions under oath in the very near term.”

Fox News said in a statement will defend itself against what it called Grossberg’s legal claims, which the company called “riddled with false allegations.”

Murdoch also was said to be concerned about Carlson’s coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The host has promoted the conspiracy theory that it was provoked by government agents, and Carlson has called Ray Epps — an Arizona man who participated in the storming of the Capitol but did not enter the building — an FBI plant, without presenting any evidence.

The media mogul acknowledged that he could have stopped the parade of conspiracy theorists on Fox News from amplifying false claims by former President Trump and his surrogates that the election in 2020 was stolen.

March 4, 2023

Epps was interviewed Sunday on “60 Minutes” and said he has been subjected to death threats as a result of Carlson’s statements about him. The FBI told “60 Minutes” that Epps has never worked for the agency.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) sparked a backlash among Democrats and others when he granted Carlson exclusive access to thousands of hours of surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 attack.

Carlson’s ouster was not part of the $787.5-million settlement Fox News agreed to pay to Dominion last week, according to a representative for Dominion. Dominion accused Fox of knowingly making false claims related to the 2020 election.


However, some of the comments that Carlson had made about Fox News management in communications that turned up in the discovery process for the case may have played a role in his downfall.

“We devote our lives to building an audience, and they let Chris Wallace and Leland f— Vittert wreck it,” Carlson texted in a group conversation with fellow hosts Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity after the 2020 election.

Vittert was a Fox News reporter who was frequently criticized by Trump and now works at NewsNation. Wallace moderated the first 2020 presidential debate, which was a disaster for Trump.

Carlson also sent texts critical of Fox News correspondents who fact-checked the election fraud claims on the network, even though he did not believe them himself.

Tucker Carlson, a fixture on conservative cable channel Fox News, exited the network on April 24.

May 9, 2023

Carlson was by far the most popular host on Fox News, averaging more than 3 million viewers a night.

But he also brought controversy to the network on a regular basis with his right-wing views on immigration and race, which alienated advertisers.


He was strident on illegal immigration across the Southern border, once saying undocumented people were making the nation “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

He was particularly critical of the Black Lives Matter movement after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. He sowed doubt about the circumstances of Floyd’s death and said Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer convicted of taking his life, was subjected to a “lynching” by the media.

Starting Monday, Carlson’s 8 p.m. Eastern time slot will be filled by rotating Fox News personalities until a new host is named, the company said.

Carlson’s departure will test the Fox News formula that has enabled the most-watched cable network to sustain its popularity even when it loses big-name talent. Fox News has remained a dominant leader, ahead of CNN and MSNBC by a wide margin, despite personnel changes over the years.

O’Reilly had the highest ratings of any Fox News personality when he exited.

Carlson never reached the same ratings heights after he replaced the star, but he remained appointment viewing. “The Five,” a roundtable program that airs at 5 p.m. Eastern, now has the largest audience on cable news, according to Nielsen data.

Carlson, who did not respond to a request for comment, has now been fired by all three cable news networks, having been pushed out from his previous stints at CNN and MSNBC.


Carlson’s dismissal comes after one of the most successful career reinventions in TV history.

He first emerged on cable news as a bow-tied, libertarian thinker skilled at turning a phrase. Throughout his early career, he was liked by colleagues and known for taking direction, according to people who worked with him at the time.

But he was booted from CNN, where he was co-host of the debate show “Crossfire,” and then MSNBC, which gave him a prime-time show before it took a sharp turn to progressive political talk.

Comedian Jon Stewart ridiculed Carlson to his face on CNN, telling him that “Crossfire,” was “hurting America.” Carlson was told by one network boss that he was too fat.

Bruised by those experiences, Carlson believed Fox News was his last chance at a successful TV career.

As Trump changed the rules on political discourse in his 2016 campaign for the White House, Carlson put the populist outrage formula on steroids in his cable news commentary after he took over for O’Reilly.


Carlson tapped into right-wing anger over immigration policy. He promoted the idea that Democratic immigration policy was about changing “the demographics of the country” — in other words replacing white people.

Such remarks made Carlson radioactive to big brand sponsors who abandoned the program. Commercial breaks on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” were filled with blurbs from MyPillow and direct-to-consumer advertisers less sensitive to the program’s content.

Carlson was not always predictable, another reason why viewers were drawn to him. He was the first Fox News host to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously, even warning Trump about it in a personal conversation at Mar-a-Lago.

But Carlson eventually used his program to give a regular platform to coronavirus vaccine skeptics who had a hold on the Make America Great Again crowd.

During a Newsmax interview that aired late Monday, Trump said he was “shocked” by news of Carlson’s firing. “He’s a very good person and a very good man and very talented, as you know, and he had very high ratings,” Trump said.

Carlson was not always a political true believer, however, as evidenced by the texts and emails gathered in discovery for the Dominion case.


Although Carlson fed his viewers what they wanted to hear, his private texts to colleagues expressed disdain for Trump in the weeks after the 2020 election when the former president was spreading lies about voter fraud.

“What he’s good at is destroying things,” Carlson texted to a producer on Nov. 5, 2020. “He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”

In another text just days before the Jan. 6 riot, Carlson said of Trump: “I hate him passionately. We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There really isn’t an upside to Trump.”