Published with the generous permission of Amee Vanderpool. For more of Amee's work, visit her Shero newsletter.
By Amee Vanderpool
This past Monday, Fox News axed its highest-rated news host Tucker Carlson, with absolutely no warning. To call the show a conservative juggernaut is an understatement — it was the highest-rated cable news program in the key 25-to-54 age demographic on the most-watched US cable news network. Shares of Fox even dipped 2.9% lower on Monday following the news that Carlson had been fired.
To discern only one reason for this dramatic shift is a nearly impossible task, as there have been several major shifts at Fox recently that could explain this sudden departure. Last Tuesday, Fox News settled with Dominion Voting Systems over defamation charges that Fox News baselessly accused the company of rigging its voting machines against former President Donald Trump in 2020. The cost of this settlement was $787.5 million. At the center of this drama was Rupert Murdoch’s Prime Time Pinocchio, Tucker Carlson.
While it may seem that the Murdoch money trough is a never-ending stream of fluidity, this settlement will not come easily for Fox. As of December 2022, Fox had about $4 billion of cash on hand. MoffettNathanson analyst Robert Fishman has made the prediction that he expects the company to pay the settlement during the current quarter.
How much the lawsuit will actually end up costing Fox is unclear because there are ways it can defray some of the expense, primarily through insurance and the use of tax deductions. That’s right, folks, at the height of tax season, when Americans are paying out everything they ever had and will have to the IRS, Fox News is preparing to deduct the cost of the Dominion settlement from its income taxes as “an expense necessary for the cost of doing business.” Fox Chief Communications Officer Brian Nick has already confirmed the deductibility of the settlement.
While the recent termination may have been about how much Tucker Carlson has cost Fox News to settle Dominion, it most likely isn't. Carlson has made the cable news outlet a lot of money with his show’s popularity and the loyal followers that it brings in. What would have eventually come out had the Dominion trial continued would have been more evidence of how everyone at Fox, including Carlson and Murdoch, were well aware of the fact that they were selling huge lies about the election to the American public. The Fox settlement was necessary for damage control.
This leads us to our next explosive lawsuit involving Tucker Carlson, brought by Carlson’s ex-producer, Abby Grossberg. In her federal suit filed in New York City, Grossberg alleges that Tucker’s show had rampant sexism and anti-Semitic behavior behind the scenes, in addition to “profanity-laced remarks” from Carlson that were directed at the top brass at Fox and other colleagues.
The former producer sought to amend some of her statements, that were made during the Dominion depositions in which she claimed she was coerced by Fox lawyers and other staff into giving her statement and that she was not able to review it. The complaint also names other Fox executives as well, and lawyers for Grossberg confirm that their client remains "as committed as ever" to pursuing her claims. All of this ongoing litigation, which again appears to have Tucker Carlson at the center, could be problematic for Fox, making Carlson’s dismissal necessary.
According to one veteran television news executive, the decision came down to a straightforward calculation by the Murdochs that involved risk versus reward. “There’s a lot of drama and intrigue, but this is always about managing risk vs. reward.” The executive continued, “I know that’s not very exciting, but it’s how these decisions get made at the highest level…a weighing of the negatives — and risks to the business — versus the positives or benefits.”
While that quote seems to depict exactly how corporate decisions involving a lot of money should be conducted, it hardly seems to match up with many of the choices the Murdochs have made for Fox News in the past. Knowingly lying to the American public for years about a myriad of issues that included giving false results for the most important election in US history, and knowing all the while how litigious things would ultimately get, does not seem like a smart risk/reward analysis.
A lot of big names have left the Fox News franchise, and the network was always able to endure, even thrive, with the new and current “talent” they had available to them. Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Megyn Kelly have all gone the way of Carlson, and they have yet to reclaim their sizable platforms, while Fox has maintained its way of life just fine.
When trying to analyze the overall culprit in a single problem with many moving parts and characters involved, I like to use the following theory to get to the core of the issue: all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. The simplest explanation of Tucker Carlson is that he is a liar.
Carlson will lie about the most mediocre things, as well as the most important things — he does not discern quality over quantity. In December 2019, Tucker Carlson lied about the status of my Twitter account so that he could erroneously include my tweet in a segment where he mocked “blue check Twitter.” I got a lot of publicity, and a lot of racist old people were forced to read one of my well-written tweets. But, given his pretense as “journalist,” the fact that he so quickly and willingly changes any fact to suit his impulsive need makes him dangerous — to the public at large and to Fox News.
There may be something to that Murdoch risk vs. reward analysis, but when dealing with Tucker Carlson, this it is a much more elusive calculation than any of us of capable of doing. If we boil this down to the simplest level, we can see that when Carlson was willing to do anything he was told, even lie on air, he proved to the Murdochs in that moment that he could not be trusted.
If Tucker Carlson will lie about Amee Vanderpool’s stupid blue verification check, he will lie about anything. Fox News was indeed able to get Carlson to lie about anything, even the results of the election. At some point, whoever made the final decision to cut Carlson, likely Lachlan Murdoch and Suzanne Scott, had to be thinking about that quote from Groucho Marx and putting it into their deliberations: “I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”