Tucker Carlson Leaves Fox News in Shakeup After Settlement

Fox News is parting ways with Tucker Carlson, its most popular prime-time host who was also the source of repeated controversies over his statements on everything from election fairness to LGBTQ rights.

(Bloomberg) — Fox News is parting ways with Tucker Carlson, its most popular prime-time host who was also the source of repeated controversies over his statements on everything from election fairness to LGBTQ rights.

His exit, coming a week after network parent Fox Corp. agreed to pay $787 million to settle a defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems Inc., leaves a big hole in the schedule of the No. 1 cable network.

“Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor,” the company said Monday in a statement.

His last show was on Friday, the network said. Fox will employ a series of rotating hosts in Carlson’s 8 p.m. time slot until a successor is named.

Before the settlement, Carlson, 53, was among a handful Fox figures, including company Chairman Rupert Murdoch, scheduled to testify in the Dominion case. The others were Murdoch’s son, Lachlan, who is Fox Corp.’s chief executive officer; Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and network host Maria Bartiromo.

Carlson’s private messages were revealed in court filings as part of the Dominion case, which alleged the network broadcast false claims of 2020 election fraud. Those comments included criticism of Fox management. Such comments played a role in his departure from Fox, according to the Washington Post. 

Carlson received no advance word that his run with Fox News was ending, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified. He was informed Monday morning.

Fox is also battling litigation filed by Abby Grossberg, a former producer of Carlson’s show. In a sex and religious discrimination suit filed last month, she alleged she’d been coerced into giving false testimony during depositions by Dominion’s lawyers.

Fox has denied her account. But the prospect of her secret recordings being played during trial helped push Fox News to settle the lawsuit, Bloomberg News has reported.

Shares of Fox, which is controlled by the Murdoch family, fell as much as 5.4% to $31.80 in New York, the steepest loss since October. They closed at $32.64, down 2.9%.

In recent years, Carlson, a former editor at the Weekly Standard and co-host on CNN, has transformed into the biggest star at Fox News. CNN reported in 2020 that he earned about $10 million a year.

Excluding sports, Tucker Carlson Tonight is the top rated prime-time show on cable TV, according to the most recent Nielsen ratings, with a nightly audience that at times exceeded 3.7 million viewers. 

In the TV season that started in September, Fox News averaged 2.2 million viewers a night, more than MSNBC and CNN combined. CNN said Monday one of its top personalities, Don Lemon, would leave the network.

But Carlson’s controversial comments on air often caused problems for Fox’s business. Over the years, several advertisers have boycotted the show over his commentary. In 2018, for instance, marketers pulled their ads after he said immigrants make the US “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

Carlson is the latest big-name personality to leave the network. In 2017, former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly left amid allegations of misconduct. Two years later, longtime Fox News anchor Shepard Smith departed. Last week, Dan Bongino, host of the weekend Fox News show Unfiltered, left after saying he couldn’t come to terms over a contract extension with the network.

Andrew Tyndall, who writes a newsletter about broadcast news, said he didn’t think Carlson’s departure would hurt Fox News much because its publicity department would make a star out of whoever replaces him in his time slot.

Fox News “has survived and thrived as it lost (or got rid of) Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly and Shep Smith,” Tyndall said. “Its viewers watch the channel, not the personality.”

(Updates with Dominion filings in sixth paragraph.)

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