(JTA) — In a move that shocked many, Fox News announced on Monday that it had “parted ways” with Tucker Carlson, the network’s most-watched host, whose on-air embrace of white nationalist conspiracy theories had defined its editorial voice since 2017.
The channel didn’t give a reason for Carlson’s departure in its press release, which said that his last program aired Friday, and its own staff was reportedly blindsided by the move. But it came shortly after Fox News paid nearly $800 million in a high-profile defamation settlement to Dominion Voting Systems, in part because of lies Carlson told his viewers about the company’s role in the 2020 presidential election.
Carlson is separately facing a lawsuit from a Jewish former producer on his show, who alleges that senior staff fostered an office culture full of sexism and antisemitism, including berating an Israeli employee for taking the High Holidays off from work. The producer, Abby Grossberg, also said that she had been pushed by Fox to give false testimony in the Dominion case.
Citing anonymous sources, the Los Angeles Times reported that Carlson had been fired and that the decision to do so had come from Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch himself. The reason, the source said, had less to do with the Dominion settlement than with Grossberg’s lawsuit, and with Carlson’s commentary on other issues including the Jan. 6, 2021, attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
To the Anti-Defamation League, the firing was long overdue. The group’s leader called for Fox to fire Carlson in 2021, after the host first promoted the white-supremacist Great Replacement theory on air.
“It’s about time,” tweeted the group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, on Monday. “For far too long, Tucker Carlson has used his primetime show to spew antisemitic, racist, xenophobic & anti-LGBTQ hate to millions.”
At the time, Fox rebuffed the ADL’s petition weeks later. The network said that Carlson had actually been talking about voting rights when he outlined the Great Replacement theory, a far-right belief that attributes a diversifying electorate to a shadowy conspiracy, typically engineered by Jews, to replace white voters with immigrants and minority groups.
“A full review of the guest interview indicates that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory,” Lachlan Murdoch, CEO of the Fox Corporation, said at the time.
The ADL’s public stance on Carlson’s employment led to criticism from the right, with Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz calling the group “racist.” Carlson also went after them on his program by parroting other white supremacist-adjacent beliefs about Israel. Last year, he gave an extended interview to Kanye West after the rapper donned a “White Lives Matter” shirt at Paris Fashion Week, but before West’s many public antisemitic rants; producers reportedly edited out antisemitic comments West had made during the interview.
For years, Carlson had evaded any discipline from Fox over his airing of such views. But the Dominion case exposed how he had been openly lying to viewers about other news issues, as well. Text messages from Carlson made public in the lawsuit’s discovery phase revealed that he personally believed former President Donald Trump and his lawyers had “discredited their own case” about the voting-machine company rigging the 2020 election, yet Carlson continued to promote the idea on his show.
“I hate him passionately,” Carlson texted a producer about Trump on another occasion.