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In an austere, four-sentence statement, Fox News announced Monday that prime-time star Tucker Carlson is leaving the network, effective immediately.
“FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,” the network said in a statement released by a spokesperson. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.”
Fox said Carlson’s last day hosting his show was Friday, April 21. Suzanne Scott and Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executives of Fox News and its parent company Fox Corp. respectively, had decided Carlson’s fate on Friday, a source with knowledge told NPR.
Yet even after Fox released its statement on Monday morning, the network was still promoting an interview between Carlson and presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy that was to have aired later that night.
Carlson had signed off of Friday’s show by wishing viewers the “best weekend” and telling them he’d be back on Monday. He did not respond to a request for comment from NPR.
The ouster of Fox’s top opinion host comes less than a week after Fox settled an epic defamation lawsuit by an election technology company for more than $787 million. Dominion Voting Systems sued over segments promoting bogus claims that election fraud cheated then-President Donald Trump of victory in 2020.
Carlson featured in Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit. Yet he is also the focus of a lawsuit from his former senior booking producer, Abby Grossberg, who filed two separate suits.
Producer suing Carlson for sex discrimination celebrates his departure
In a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York, Grossberg accused Carlson and Fox of sexism and harassment, alleging that his show’s workplace was replete with examples of misogyny. Her lawsuit claims, among other things, that mocked-up photographic images depicted then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “in a bathing suit revealing her cleavage” and that staffers were polled — on two separate occasions — on which of two female candidates for Michigan governor they would rather have sex with.
“Tucker Carlson’s departure from Fox News is, in part, an admission of the systemic lying, bullying, and conspiracy-mongering claimed by our client,” said Tanvir Rahman, one of Grossberg’s lawyers, in a statement Monday afternoon. “Mr. Carlson and his subordinates remain individual defendants in the S.D.N.Y. case and we look forward to taking their depositions under oath in the very near term.”
Fox also booted the senior executive producer of Carlson’s show, Justin Wells, who also is named as a defendant in that lawsuit.
Grossberg’s other lawsuit, filed in Delaware, focuses on the actions of Fox’s legal team. She says the attorneys pressured her to lie in her sworn statements for the defamation case about what she witnessed at the network.
Fox vigorously denied the accusations against its lawyers. It fired Grossberg after she filed her suits, alleging that she disclosed privileged information amid the defamation litigation that she was not legally entitled to make public.
“This is a step towards accountability for the election lies and baseless conspiracy theories spread by Fox News, something I witnessed firsthand,” said Grossberg in the statement about Carlson’s ouster. “This is some justice for the American people and for Fox News viewers who’ve been manipulated and lied to for years, all in an attempt to boost the channel’s ratings and revenue.”
Documents made public before the settlement with Dominion Voting Systems reveal a clear divide between what Carlson said on air and behind the scenes. On his show, he raised skeptical questions over the lack of evidence for assertions made by a key Trump ally, Sidney Powell. In January 2021, however, he hosted a leading advertiser, My Pillow founder Mike Lindell, who repeated the false claims once more. In his private communications to a colleague, Carlson called Powell an exceptionally vulgar and denigrating term for a woman.
Fox says a rotating cast of personalities will fill in during the prime-time slot until the network names a permanent replacement.
A star who survived controversy after controversy
Carlson was by far the network’s most prominent personality, stepping in smoothly to replace former star host Bill O’Reilly after a series of sexual harassment allegations forced his departure. (O’Reilly has denied those accusations.)
Carlson has also established a major footprint at Fox Nation, its streaming site that caters to an even more pronounced right-wing sensibility.
Despite his shocking departure, Carlson had endured more controversies than most cable news stars could hope to survive professionally. In July 2020, his top writer was forced out after it was discovered he had posted racist, sexist and homophobic commentaries. Last month, the Daily Dot found that one of Carlson’s staffers had the habit of “liking” posts from VDare, a site for white nationalists.
His show has been condemned by civil rights leaders for broadcasting racist, antisemitic and anti-immigrant ideology.
His work on his show — accentuated by specials on the streaming service — also sparked a firestorm by seeking to exonerate people who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, siege of the U.S. Capitol as civic-minded people who were being politically persecuted.
That contributed to the decision by several prominent Fox figures to depart — including Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and conservative commentators Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg.
Mary Yang contributed to this story.