OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
When Tucker Carlson and Fox News announced their separation in April 2023, both fans and critics were taken aback. After all, Tucker Carlson Tonight was a tremendously popular show on the network, with three million people on a regular basis.
Carlson’s retirement was announced without an official reason, but various claims emerged in the days that followed regarding what had truly happened behind the scenes, the Intelligencer reported.
Michael Wolff’s latest book, The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, delves deeper into the network’s turmoil, including how then-Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch decided to fire Carlson despite liking him personally.
The day after New York Magazine released an excerpt from Wolff’s book on Carlson’s departure from the network, Murdoch announced his resignation as chairman of Fox Corporation and News Corp. According to ABC News, the 92-year-old’s son, Lachlan Murdoch, will become the next chair of News Corp. and will continue to be the executive chair and CEO of Fox Corporation.
Vanity Fair reported that Murdoch may have been angered by Carlson’s speech about his Christian and conservative beliefs at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th Anniversary gala three days before he was fired from Fox News. According to the presenter, those who disagreed with his beliefs were “advocating for…evil.”
A source told Vanity Fair, “This information terrifies Rupert. He dislikes all the spiritual discourse.”
Other hypotheses involved the lawsuit between Dominion Voting Systems and Fox News. The company sued the network for defamation in relation to claims made on-air that their technology assisted in “stealing” the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump.
Not only was Carlson one of the anchors who accused Dominion of this on his program, but court documents reportedly revealed texts he sent insulting Fox News colleagues and criticizing Trump.
According to Wolff’s book, Carlson’s dismissal was connected to the Dominion Voting Systems litigation, but not in the manner that was initially reported. Instead, the book asserts that Carlson was sacrificed as part of the settlement because Murdoch did not wish for his financial settlement with Dominion to exceed $1 billion.
Carlson reportedly dined with Murdoch and Smith prior to the decision, and the meal “reinforced for Murdoch that he really did like Tucker.”
Wolff wrote, “He liked him considerably more than he liked Sean Hannity, whom he despised. But there was also a perception that the problems he caused outweighed his worth. The Fox backlash could often appear to be Tucker backlash among his offspring. Without him, how could you possibly reduce the Fox temperature? How about twenty percent? How about thirty percent? Perhaps more? This was a Murdoch calculation: “How much could Fox be toned down without losing its identity?”
Fox reached a settlement with Dominion for $787.5 million after Fox fired Carlson.
Chadwick Moore’s biography of Carlson was published in August. Carlson explains in the book why he believes he was dismissed from Fox News, and it aligns with Wolff’s perspective.
“They agreed to take me off the air, along with my show, as a condition of the Dominion settlement,” Carlson told Moore, as reported by The Guardian. “They were compelled to reach a resolution; Rupert was unable to testify. I believe that agreement was reached mere minutes before the trial began. I mean, I’m certain it was.”
Fox News issued a brief statement regarding the cancellation of Carlson’s program in April: “FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We appreciate his contributions as a host and before that as a contributor to the network. Mr. Carlson’s final program aired on April 21. Fox News Tonight will air live tonight at 8 p.m. ET with alternating FOX News personalities serving as interim hosts until a permanent replacement is named.”
The Hill reported in May that both Dominion and Fox News denied that Carlson’s termination was a settlement condition. A Dominion representative stated to Best Life regarding Wolff’s allegations, “Both Dominion and Fox News have already confirmed this claim is categorically false. Any contrary assertion is simply untrue.”
Fox provided the following statement in response to questions about the book: “The fact that this author’s books have been parodied on Saturday Night Live tells us everything we need to know.”