On Monday, 24 April, FOX News put out a press release that sent shockwaves across the landscape of American media and politics. The communiqué revealed that ‘FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways’.
Carlson, the host of his nightly show Tucker Carlson Tonight, has been the highest-rated cable news anchor for the past few years, pulling in around 3.5 million viewers per show. The media research firm Nielsen puts out its top 10 most-watched cable TV shows for each week—many times, multiple Carlson episodes had made it into the top 10.
The wording of the press release suggests that the 53-year-old newsman and the TV channel parted ways on a mutual decision. However, insider information shared by conservative media personalities such as Bill O’Reilly, Carlson’s predecessor in his FOX News timeslot, and Ben Shapiro contradicts that. According to them, Carlson was prepping for his Monday show in the morning when he got the news of his firing, only minutes before the press release went public. The accuracy of their scoops is backed by the fact that when Tucker Carlson signed off on his Friday show, he told his sizable audience ‘that’s it for us for the week, we’ll be back’.
Tucker Carlson’s Connections to Hungary
Carlson has always been one of the most avid proponents of Hungary in American media. Due to the deluge of negative coverage of our country, even some in the conservative circles tend to shy away from associating with Hungary—Counterpoint Institute President Shea Bradley-Farrell talked about this phenomenon while speaking at an event by the Center for Fundamental Rights (Alapjogokért Központ).
However, Carlson has really stuck his neck out for Viktor Orbán and our nation multiple times during his illustrious career,
especially recently. This is not the only way has shown a willingness to entertain opinions that are further right than the Republican establishment. This is among the many reasons that is speculated to have been behind his shock firing. The fact FOX also let weekend host Dan Bongino go days before Carlson is one of the facts pointing to this being the case.
In August 2021, Tucker Carlson spent a whole week in Hungary, recording every episode of his nightly show in Budapest. During his time, he also visited the southern border (travelling there by army helicopter) and lauded the efficiency of the fence in keeping out the wave of illegal migrants.
He also sat down with Prime Minister Orbán during his time here. The interview ended up becoming a massive success for the FOX News YouTube channel, hitting 2.7 million views within the first few days of its release, then eventually amassing 6.8 million views, as of the time of writing this. It is currently the 28th most viewed video on a YouTube channel that has over 90,000 uploads.
The August 2021 issue of the Hungarian political magazine Mandiner featured the American cable news star on their cover. In his interview with the periodical, he referred to PM Orbán as a man ‘resisting the efforts of a lone billionaire named George Soros to transform his country’. Carlson also delivered a speech at the MCC Feszt youth festival in Esztergom titled ‘The World According to Tucker Carlson’ which was an immense success with the audience consisting of Hungarians, Americans and Tucker enthusiasts from many other countries.
Carlson’s affection towards Hungary did not stop in August 2021. In January 2022, he put out a self-produced 25-minute documentary on the streaming service FOX Nation, titled ‘Hungary vs Soros: The Fight for Civilization’. In April 2023, political director of the Hungarian Prime Minister Balázs Orbán also appeared on—what later turned out to be—one of the last episodes of Tucker Carlson Tonight. He was asked about Hungary’s child protection act by Carlson on the show.
With Carlson’s ‘dishonourable discharge’ from FOX, Hungary lost one of its biggest proponents in American media, at least for now. If the overall strategy of pivoting more towards the centre for conservative media outlets works out for FOX, that may cause some damage to our country’s image overseas, as fewer pundits would be willing to defend the Orbán administration.
However, at the moment, it does not seem it is working out for the American news giant. Both the ratings of the FOX News cable channel and Fox Corp stock price has fallen since the announcement of Carlson’s departure.
Tucker Carlson Responds
The main subject of public discussion recently, Tucker Carlson has been eerily quiet in the days following his shocking firing. However, that is no longer the case. On 26 April, two days after his firing, he posted a short video to his Twitter feed, with the simple caption ‘Good evening’.
In it, he bemoans the fact that the issues that are debated in news media are trivial in his opinion. He also went on to say:
‘And yet the same time, and this is the amazing thing, the undeniably big topics, the ones that will define our future, get virtually no discussion at all. War, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, corporate power, natural resources—when was the last time you heard a legitimate debate on any of those issues?…Both political parties and their donors have reached a consensus on what benefits them. And they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it.
Suddenly, the United States looks very much like a one-party state.’
The circumstances of his firing are not mentioned directly in this video, they are only alluded to. Meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman from New York, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, took to her social media, sharing her excitement about the news of Carlson’s departure. She added ‘deplatforming works and it is important’.
Why Was Tucker Carlson Fired from FOX News?
Major news outlets are going with the assumption that FOX News’s recently settled lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems is what was behind the seismic decision to let Tucker go. The right-wing news channel settled the defamation case out of court by paying the voting machine manufacturer and operator $787.5 million. Statements made on FOX’s air about the validity of the 2020 US Presidential election results prompted the company to sue for defamation. This is the largest known settlement in American media history.
What’s more, Carlson himself is the defendant in yet another civil suit.
This one alleges workplace misconduct related to sexism, and was filed by the show’s former senior booking producer Abby Grossberg. As for the specific claims, staffers were allegedly polled on two separate occasions on which of the two female Michigan gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer or Republican Tudor Dixon, would they rather have sex with; and that a picture of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a bathing suit was displayed in the office as a joke. More serious accusations by Grossberg claim that she was overworked and denied promotion because of gender discrimination.
However, evidently, speculations on the popular pundit’s departure do not end there. Another theory is that his recent coverage of the 6 January events, based on new security camera footage obtained from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, was one of the reasons behind his firing.
Multiple news outlets report that News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch personally made the call to part ways with Tucker Carlson. That would make sense, since getting rid of a channel’s highest-rated host is a risky move to make for any executive.
However, FOX has been through this before. The aforementioned Bill O’Reilly was also the most-watched cable news personality when he left the channel in 2017, amidst a sexual harassment lawsuit that ended up being settled for tens of millions of dollars. Carlson, taking over his time slot, retained the #1 spot in cable ratings—however, O’Really was getting around 3.7 million viewers per show when he left, compared to Carlson’s 3.3–3.4 million at the time of his departure, so there has been a bit of a dip in ratings.
Amidst all this, an anchor from the other end of the political spectrum, Don Lemon has also been let go at his place of work, CNN. Lemon’s career is far from being as successful as Carlson’s, however: his last two gigs were a show on CNN’s ridiculously short-lived (only lasting one month) streaming service, CNN+; then being a co-host on CNN’s low-rated morning show. There, he got into quite a bit of controversy for claiming women in their 50s are ‘past their prime’, in a conversation about former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.