Cable news was rocked by a seismic shift on Monday, as Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon — top stars at Fox News and CNN, respectively — were fired within an hour of each other. , leaving fans, colleagues and media pundits to try to figure out what led to, in the words of one industry watcher, a “breathtaking” turn of events.
What exactly happened?
“Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,” network officials said in a statement at 11:30 a.m. ET. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and before that as a contributor.”
And with this stark statement, Tucker Carlson tonightwhich first aired in 2016 and ranked as the highest-rated show on all cable news, was no more.
While Fox News’ official statement did not specify the departure of the controversial host, the Los Angeles Timesciting sources close to the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly, reported that the chairman of Fox Corp. Rupert Murdoch himself wanted the broadcaster to stop broadcasting.
According to the newspaper, the dismissal was linked to a discrimination lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg, in which Grossberg alleged that she endured anti-Semitic comments and bullying on Carlson’s show. THE the wall street journalwhich is owned by Murdoch, reported that Carlson found out he was fired just 10 minutes before his company was announced.
It could not have helped Carlson’s case that, only a week before, Fox Corp. settled a libel suit filed against them by Dominion Voting Systems, in which Dominion accused Fox News and on-air talent, including Carlson, of claiming without evidence that there was fraud in the 2020 election. This despite evidence showing that Carlson and others doubted former President Donald Trump’s claims about vote manipulation; Carlson was also highly critical of Fox’s management in court documents. According to the settlement, Fox will pay $787.5 million to Dominion. The company is facing a similar lawsuit from Smartmatic, another company that provides campaign support, which is seeking $2.7 billion.
Then, shortly before 12:30 p.m. ET, as the media world tried to figure out the Carlson bombshell, the Lemon news hit.
The former evening anchor, known for snapping on-air for Carlson and Fox News, tweeted that he “was fired by CNN”, ending a 17-year career on the network. Lemon, who had been co-presenter of CNN this morning over the past six months, said he learned of his termination from his agent, and that he was “dazed.”
The network, however, had a different version of what happened.
“CNN and Don have parted ways,” CNN President Chris Licht said in a statement. “Don will always be part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contribution over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will encourage him in his future endeavours.”
They called Lemon’s recollection “inaccurate.”
Earlier this month, Lemon had come under fire over allegations sexist and misogynistic behavior on the set in a Variety exposed — charges he called “obviously false” — and in February he was left out from her morning show after on-air remarks that 51-year-old Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was not “at her peak”. CNN ordered him to undergo sensitivity training while he was off the air.
As with Carlson, there has been no official word from CNN on what led to Lemon’s firing, but The New York Times reported that executives were “exasperated” by Lemon’s decision testy exchange last Wednesday with another Republican presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy.
Carlson and Lemon reportedly hired famed media attorney Bryan Freedman, so don’t expect them to leave without a legal battle.
So was it a coincidence?
While the timing was nearly simultaneous, the shots were completely unrelated. Media reporter Brian Stelter, a former colleague of Lemon at CNN, called it “a complete and crazy coincidence”.
Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syrcause University, said viewers shouldn’t get too much of the fact that the starts were so close together.
“The news has been constantly changing for a long time,” Thompson told Yahoo Entertainment. “We had the retirement or departure of the three great anchors inherited many years ago – Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather – all in a short time. It was of course not in the hour that has followed. one day. It’s mind-boggling, but I think the flow of schedules and programming…whatever, is normal in this highly volatile, flowing and economically challenged environment of cable news.”
Thompson notes that there are differences between what happened to Carlson and Lemon.
“Tucker Carlson’s announcement was more surprising in that he delivers 3 million viewers to [Fox News] every night. Don Lemon does not deliver three million viewers to CNN. Tucker Carlson is truly one of the main [anchors]he’s starting prime time programming, one of the stars and highest rated on Fox’s lineup.”
He does not yet know what this means for the future.
“I think that might indicate — I wouldn’t bet on that, I’m not sure that’s true — but even though after January 6, when people thought Fox might moderate some of his stuff, they didn’t. didn’t, even after the Dominion case was filed, they thought they could change and they didn’t, even after the Dominion verdict, they didn’t,” Thompson says. “And now, all of a sudden, they’re getting rid of their biggest performer on the network. It sends a message. I don’t know what message it is yet, but it’s a message, one way or another.”
Monday, in the time slot usually occupied by Carlson, fox and friends anchor Brian Kilmeade hosted Fox News TonightAnd he wished his former colleague “the best” in a brief statement at the top of the show.
Tom Jones, senior media editor at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, calls the double starts “astounding”.
“What makes it amazing is that they seemingly came out of nowhere. Even Carlson and Lemon didn’t see it coming, apparently,” Jones said. “Carlson was expecting to do his show on Monday night and Lemon actually did his show on Monday morning. The fact that they happened practically at the same time is apparently a coincidence. Now we are waiting to see the reasons for these moves Is Carlson leaving because of the Dominion lawsuit? Is it because of this other lawsuit filed by a former producer? Is it something else? We don’t know and until we do, he’s difficult to decipher exactly what to think of it. Same with Lemon. He seems to be on shaky ground since his comments on Nikki Haley not be at its peak. But we just don’t know for sure.”
What was the reaction?
Safer Viewco-host Whoopi Goldberg and her fellow panelists danced and sang to celebrate the news of Carlson, which broke during the live stream. Goldberg promised, however, that they would talk more about the subject in Tuesday’s edition.
Former Fox News personality Megyn Kelly spent several minutes on her SiriusXM show calling Carlson’s firing a “terrible decision” by the network, and she asked why other Fox News personalities, who had also questioned privately Trump and his unproven allegations of fraud while telling the opposite of their viewers, were still employed.
“It’s going to be great for Tucker,” she said. “I’m not worried about Tucker at all. I predict Tucker will go independent. Tucker starts a podcast or a digital show and smashes it. Absolutely smashes it.” She also acknowledged Lemon’s dismissal, saying that while she rarely agreed with his comment, she believed CNN handled the situation in a “classless” way.
Meanwhile, Sean Hannity, arguably Fox News’ biggest remaining star, addressed the events on his radio show. “It’s very hard…My phone has been blowing up all day. The hardest part for me is I have no idea…I have no idea. Was that the decision Was it Tucker’s? Was it Fox’s? Was it a mutual agreement that they had? I don’t know.
On social media, “Bye Felicia” was always trending on Twitter, mostly in reference to Carlson, as viewers on both sides of the political spectrum resounded.
What does this really mean for viewers? And for the future of cable information?
Thompson notes that Carlson’s absence is a good thing for an audience searching for the truth.
“He’s not coming back, and I think there will be a lot of Fox viewers who won’t be happy with his absence,” Thompson said. “But I think overall it became clear through all sorts of different sources that what he was reporting was not only contrary to what any sense of legitimate reporting would indicate, but what [Tucker Carlson] said… was contrary to what Tucker Carlson himself thought. So I think in that sense Tucker Carlson not having this big platform that he had is a good thing for consumers.”
Jones says he’ll be watching closely to see how Fox News fills Carlson’s timeslot.
Although Lemon is a big name, he says, Lemon was just one of many people who hosted a morning show, so his absence won’t be felt as strongly. (CNN, which has seen its ratings plummet since Licht took over, is in the process of bringing proven stars Gayle King and Charles Barkley at a weekend slot.)
“So this show is going to go on. But Carlson was Fox News’ biggest star with the biggest prime-time audience. If they replace him with someone pushing the same divisive talking points, that suggests that they parted ways with Carlson for reasons other than what he says, or said, on his show,” Jones explains. “If they replace him with someone who is more moderate, more responsible for what he says, less politically and racially divisive, that suggests he no longer agreed with Carlson’s agenda. The way which Fox News will replace Carlson will go a long way in showing what their plans are moving forward.”
Whatever happens with this network, Thompson says we should continue to expect a rocky media landscape.
“I think as more and more places have to cut budgets, we’re going to see the usual changes that come with it: layoffs and redirection. In competitive news environments, we’re always going to see jockeys to see which people can be more competitive in the right places,” he says. “So, yes, I think the cable news environment, and newspapers and any other type of media environment is going to remain very unstable. “