What to expect after Carlson’s departure

The circumstances that led to the firing of Tucker Carlson by Fox News are still murky. Neither he nor Fox have made any statement as to the precise reasons but speculation is that the abrupt nature of the firing in the absence of any obvious factors suggests that something serious had emerged to cause the rupture between them. We will have to see what that is. The one thing you can be sure of is that this was not a split caused by a clash of high-minded principles because neither party has any. It will be because of some grubby and tawdry issues. What I would like to see is a bare-knuckle brawl where they air each other’s dirty laundry.

As to what happens next, media analyst Jack Shafer says that nothing will really change after the departure of Carlson because what Fox does is not create shows around individuals but around certain types of people and it is easy replace a type. In fact, Fox has a deep bench of people who can step into Carlson’s shoes and pick up where he left off in targeting white nationalists and in incendiary rabble-rousing around culture war issues as well as race and gender.

Roger Ailes, the original architect of Fox, who founded the network in 1996 with Murdoch, explained its show-making philosophy to Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard in 2017. The subject was the early evening news-talk program, The Five, which in recent months has outperformed even Carlson’s show. Ailes explained how he filled the slot vacated by solo artist Beck with an ensemble of pundits — building a sort of Archies talk show for the Fox audience. The Five, would be performed by five commentators at 5 p.m. Get it?

“Go around the table,” Ailes told Ferguson. “Over on this end, we’ve got the bombshell in a skirt, drop-dead gorgeous. … But smart! She’s got to be smart, or it doesn’t work.” Next, he said, “We have a gruff longshoreman type, salty but not too salty for TV. In the middle there’s the handsome matinee idol. Next to him we have the Salvation Army girl, cute and innocent —but you get the idea she might be a lotta fun after a few pops. On the end, we need a wiseguy, the cut-up.”

When Ailes finally cast the show with his types, Ferguson writes, he summoned them to his office and had them stand in a semi-circle around his desk to explain why he was calling the show The Five,. “‘I’m calling it The Five because you are types, not people. You all are about to become very famous, and you’re going to make a lotta money. A lotta money. But don’t ever forget. Right behind you I’ve got somebody exactly like you ready to take your place. So don’t fuck up.”

Finding a Carlson substitute will be as easy for Fox as it was finding an O’Reilly substitute. There’s always an understudy or two at Fox who has learned the art of demagoguery — how to pander to the stolen election liars, incite white nationalists and make long-distance love to Vladimir Putin. Ensconced in the 8 p.m. slot that was Carlson’s and O’Reilly’s before that, the new host will succeed enough to imagine having become a star, too, until the light dims and the Murdoch’s network births yet another star.

The depressing thing is that this is likely an accurate description of a supposed news network but journalistic abilities play no role whatsoever in its thinking.

Will Carlson end up in the media wilderness and have a fringe online presence like previous high-profile Fox personalities who got canned, such as Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Megyn Kelly? Or, as some of the wilder speculations suggest, will he run for political office, perhaps even for the 2024 Republican nomination? That would pose a real dilemma for the MAGAts who adore both Trump and Carlson.

Seth Meyers had a segment on Carlson’s ouster.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    It reminds me a bit of the NSDAP after the night of the long knives -- a hundred dead, and they were replaced with other criminals without problems.

  2. says

    I know it’s called the “Fox News Channel”, but it’s really the “Fox Opinion Channel”. Most of what they report is not news, per se, but rather personal (or corporate) opinions surrounding newsy events. In that regard, it’s not much different from evening shows on MSNBC and CNN (although to be fair, those two don’t offer the extreme views found on Fox). For that matter, most of what passes for “news” these days is not so much news as it is press releases and marketing push. And let’s not forget the obligatory “heart-warming tale or funny item” that closes every national evening news broadcast.

  3. garnetstar says

    Perhaps there is hope: I read that Carlson has hired a “high-powered lawyer” since his firing (the same lawyer as Don Lemon.) So he may bring a suit over losing his job, and we’ll all get to hear the slimy, dirty story of how both sides operate.

  4. says

    @3: Or Fox would just quietly settle. Again. Because in this case, I’m guessing neither party would want any of that dirt to come out in a trial.

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