Fox News is facing a ratings crisis and an identity crisis after the sudden departure of Tucker Carlson, its most popular and controversial host.
Carlson, who had been with the network since 2009 and hosted the 8 p.m. slot since 2016, was fired on Friday after a New York Times investigation revealed that he had been secretly communicating with Nicholas Fuentes, a white nationalist who participated in the Charlottesville rally in 2017 and the Capitol riot on January 6. Carlson allegedly shared information with Fuentes that could help him discredit journalists and activists who criticized him.Embed from Getty Images
Fox News said in a statement that it had “agreed to part ways” with Carlson after learning of his “unacceptable” conduct. The network did not specify what conduct it was referring to, but said it had “zero tolerance” for any employee who “undermines our journalistic standards or values.”
Carlson’s exit comes after a ratings hot streak that put him back at #1 in cable news for the first quarter of 2023. He averaged 3.2 million viewers per night, beating rivals CNN and MSNBC. He also drew attention for his outspoken and often divisive opinions on topics such as immigration, race, COVID-19 and the 2020 election.
However, Carlson also faced backlash from advertisers, activists and even some of his colleagues at Fox News for his controversial remarks. Major brands such as T-Mobile, Disney and Pfizer pulled their ads from his show after he made comments that were seen as racist, sexist or anti-science. He also clashed with other Fox News personalities such as Neil Cavuto, Chris Wallace and Shep Smith, who left the network in 2019.
Carlson has not commented publicly on his firing, but he posted a video on his website on Sunday night. He also announced that he would be launching a new media venture with former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who left the network in 2017 after clashing with then-president Donald Trump.
Fox News is likely to take a ratings hit without Carlson. Brian Kilmeade, a co-host of “Fox & Friends,” filled in for Carlson on Monday night and drew nearly 600,000 fewer viewers than Carlson’s average. Other Fox News personalities expected to get a shot in Carlson’s chair include daytime host Harris Faulkner and “Fox & Friends” weekend co-host Will Cain.Embed from Getty Images
The network is also facing increased competition from other conservative outlets such as Newsmax, OAN and BlazeTV, which have been attracting some of Fox News’ viewers and talent. Former Fox News hosts such as Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Eric Bolling have moved to these platforms, which offer more editorial freedom and less corporate oversight.
Fox News is still the dominant force in cable news, but its future is uncertain without its star anchor.Embed from Getty Images