Fox News fired conservative lightning rod Tucker Carlson and CNN dumped Don Lemon, causing major waves in the media landscape with the twin bombshell announcements about the departures of the entertainment and propaganda outlets’ most watched and most visible personalities.
“Mr. Carlson’s last program was Friday April 21st,” Fox said in a statement. “Fox News Tonight will air live at 8 PM/ET starting this evening as an interim show helmed by rotating FOX News personalities until a new host is named.”
Carlson, 53, has been with the conservative propaganda network since 2009 after tarnishing the quality of journalism at MSNBC and CNN.
Lemon, 57, announced his unexpected departure after 17 years with CNN on Twitter, saying his agent was the one who notified him.
“I am stunned,” Lemon wrote. “After 17 years at CNN I would have thought someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly.”
“At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network,” wrote Lemon. “It is clear that there are some larger issues at play.”
CNN offered no public explanation for Lemon’s dismissal.
During a February discussion on “CNN This Morning” with co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins about the ages of politicians, Lemon said that the 51-year-old Republican presidential candidate Nimarata Nikki Randhawa Haley was not “in her prime.”
A woman, Lemon said, was considered in her prime “in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s.”
Harlow challenged Lemon, trying to clarify what he was referencing: “I think we need to qualify. Are you talking about prime for childbearing or are you talking about prime for being president?”
“Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are,” Lemon responded.
Lemon issued a statement the same day saying he regretted his “inartful and irrelevant” comments. He was subsequently absent from the show for three days, returning the following week with a tweeted apology but no mention of the episode on air.
Haley, who had criticized Lemon’s statements as sexist and used the incident to fundraise in February, took to Twitter on Monday to call Lemon’s ouster “a great day for women everywhere,” linking to the beverage sleeves emblazoned with “Past my prime? Hold my beer.”
On ABC’s “The View,” whose mostly liberal hosts regard Carlson as something of a supervillain, Whoopi Goldberg’s announcement drew cheers from the studio audience.
Fox News reached a last-second $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems just last week over lies about the 2020 election, which Carlson and other hosts repeatedly amplified on air. In emails and text messages released as part of that lawsuit, Carlson claimed to “passionately” hate former President Trump, despite their chummy rapport in front of viewers.
Carlson’s private messages were among hundreds of internal communications made public in the course of the lawsuit that caused angst and embarrassment for Fox and heightened the company’s legal jeopardy — Fox ultimately agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million.
Among other comments, Carlson expressed skepticism of the election-fraud claims made on-air by attorneys affiliated with Donald Trump and declared that he “passionately” hates the former president, whose rise to power had been cheered by Fox.
The Dominion case revealed Carlson’s comments about Fox management that instigated in his departure from Fox, according to a person familiar with the company’s internal workings.
“Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience?” Carlson wrote to a colleague in a message a day after Fox, like other media outlets, called the election for Joe Biden. It was a sentiment echoed by others at Fox in the fall of 2020, as even network officials who disbelieved Trump’s election-fraud conspiracy theories fretted that countering them strongly would alienate their conservative viewers.
In another message, Carlson referred to management with an expletive: “Those f—–s are destroying our credibility.” He later wrote: “A combination of incompetent liberals and top leadership with too much pride to back down is what’s happening.”
Carlson was not given a chance to say goodbye to the audience he had amassed in his years as a prime time host. His executive producer, Justin Wells, is also leaving the network, according to a person familiar with the move.
In 1979, Carlson’s father married divorcée Patricia Swanson, an heiress to the Swanson TV dinner family fortune and a niece of Senator J. William Fulbright.
“Carlson’s departure is great news for America,” said Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. “He was the country’s foremost purveyor of white supremacist talking points, pushing the conspiracy theories that inspired massacres from El Paso, Texas, to Buffalo, New York.”
“He was the nation’s most prominent anti-vaxxer, running a brutally effective campaign against public efforts to vaccinate Americans against COVID-19,” said Gertz. “And his lies and deceptions following the January 6 insurrection helped foil the potential for a consensus against the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol. He worked to radicalize the Republican Party in the direction of its most dangerous, authoritarian elements.”
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