A Last Supper with Tucker Carlson
Did Fox News strike after Tucker Carlson spoke about God at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Gala?
I heard an unmistakable voice say “Hello” about ten yards behind me. I was standing in line to check in for the Heritage Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala on April 21. The inflection and accent, vaguely aristocratic Californian, meant it could only be one man: Tucker Carlson.
Americans have been accustomed to hearing that voice say, “Good evening and welcome to Tucker Carlson Tonight” at 8 p.m. sharp, five days a week on Fox News. Shortly after that hello, the last episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, pre-recorded so he could address those gathered at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, would fill the living rooms of Americans coast to coast.
Carlson stood in the middle of a dense crowd, wearing a navy blue suit and blue-and-yellow striped tie, two staples of his on-air wardrobe. In his remarks that would follow, Carlson told an audience of some 2,300 people, “I feel a little underdressed looking out on this crowd of handsome, well-dressed people. I just came from work, and if you wear a tuxedo on the air, they think it’s the March of Dimes.” Indeed, Tucker and I were among the few who took “black tie optional” seriously. California roots run deep.
As one young man greeted him, Carlson exclaimed, “You look like a member of Congress!” The young man replied, though I couldn’t make out his words. Carlson unleashed one of his trademark chuckles, laughing with him and not at him, as Carlson typically employs it on the air. Everyone knew the prince of primetime was here, and he was ready.
I, for one, was not ready. I made my way to the bar. As I caught up with friends, old acquaintances, and former colleagues, we were all getting loose for a double-headliner we’d never thought possible: Tucker Carlson and Dierks Bentley, Heritage’s surprise musical guest that wasn’t so secret by the time we had gathered at the venue. But even if it had been a surprise, it would have soon paled in comparison to what the next 72 hours would hold.
The next hour or so was filled with pomp and pageantry. There were outstanding musical performances—Mary Millben, who has performed for three presidents, sang a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “The House I Live In.” Some people were recognized for well-deserved awards, while others gave heartfelt tributes to the institution’s fifty-year history.
Unlike me, Vince Coglianese does own a tuxedo. That, and his success as a host for the DMV-area radio station WMAL, probably explains why Heritage asked him to take part in a tribute to all those who have worked or interned at Heritage in years past. As I was enjoying red wine with dinner, Coglianese sat backstage with Carlson. He has known Carlson for thirteen years, and the former Fox News host has had a profound impact on his politics and career.
“He's forced me to become better at analyzing what’s happening in the country,” Coglianese told The American Conservative in a phone interview. “He has a tremendous capacity to distill complex events down into something that can be communicated to the American public. That’s inspirational, and anyone who wants to succeed in writing or journalism should adopt those skills to the best of their ability. And I've spent all the time that I’ve known Tucker attempting to do that very thing.”
Coglianese said there weren’t any signs that Carlson was stressed or worried backstage. Nonetheless, as the two chatted, the network was airing what would be the last episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight.
“It was just the two of us and his assistant backstage,” Coglianese told me. “I didn’t get a single hint that he was leaving Fox News, and I can assure you I would have known that.”
Monday morning, Tucker Carlson parted ways with Fox.
There were other reasons Carlson could have been stressed Friday night.
One was Fox News’s recent settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. A whopping $787.5 million kept Fox executives and its most prominent figures from taking the stand in the defamation lawsuit over claims of Dominion’s role in the 2020 election.
Hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed as part of the lawsuit, revealing text messages from Fox News executives and talent. Including some from Carlson.
On November 16, 2020, Carlson told a producer at the network that Sidney Powell, an attorney representing President Donald Trump at the time, “is lying.” He also called her a “f****** b****.” The following day, Carlson contacted Powell.
“You keep telling our viewers that millions of votes were changed by the software. I hope you will prove that very soon,” Carlson wrote Powell. “You’ve convinced them that Trump will win. If you don’t have conclusive evidence of fraud at that scale, it’s a cruel and reckless thing to keep saying.”
By all reports, Powell did not reply to that message.
Carlson fought back the best way he knew how. He took on Powell during his November 19, 2020, Fox News broadcast. “When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her,” said Carlson, who frequently lambasts prominent political figures, Republican or Democrat, for refusing invitations to come on his show.
Things continued to get testy between members of the Fox News team over claims of voter fraud. In texts with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, Carlson said it was “pretty disgusting” that more attorneys were not challenging Powell’s claims.
“And now Trump, I learned this morning, is sitting back and letting them lose the [S]enate. He doesn’t care. I care. I’ve got four kids and plan to live here.”
After the news of the Carlson-Fox split broke, some speculated that the alleged dissonance between Tucker’s text messages and what he said on the air was responsible for his departure. While Tucker was willing to report on the widespread claims about the 2020 election and other kinds of election chicanery, compared to other Fox hosts, Carlson maintained a healthy skepticism for the claims that eventually led to Fox News’ massive settlement with Dominion.
Powell “never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one. Why are we telling you this? We’re telling you this because it’s true. And in the end, that's all that matters: the truth. It's our only hope, it's our best defense, and it's how we're different from them. We care what's true, and we know you care, too,” Carlson said later in his November 19 broadcast.
Compare that to Lou Dobbs, the Fox Business host who lost his show in January of 2021, likely in connection to his embrace of the theory that the 2020 election was stolen via Dominion and other voting machines.
On November 14, 2020, Dobbs tweeted that “read[ing] all about Dominion and Smartmatic voting companies” will show “how pervasive this Democrat electoral fraud is, and why there’s no way in the world the 2020 presidential election was either free or fair.” During his November 16 broadcast, Dobbs said that “what the Trump legal team and others are discovering about Dominion” is “probable cause for a complete and thorough investigation.”
Dobbs would lose his show, but other hosts who entertained the Dominion claims more than Carlson did, such as Maria Bartiromo, have kept their jobs.
“I can’t imagine the Dominion lawsuit would have anything to do with Tucker Carlson being fired from Fox News,” Coglianese told TAC. “Tucker Carlson was the single most responsible person in the entire American news media when it came to the 2020 election and allegations about impropriety.”
Carlson, according to Coglianese, “didn’t handle it like the morons in the corporate press, which said everything was on the up-and-up, how dare you question the way the election was conducted, how dare you suggest that there was any nefarious behavior whatsoever in any industry as it relates to the election. And he also didn't credulously buy every allegation of machine meddling that came from people like Sidney Powell.”
Dominion itself has denied any role of the settlement in Carlson’s firing.
What was exposed in the course of the Dominion lawsuit may have played a role in Carlson’s firing, but it was not done in response to Tucker’s claims on the air about the 2020 election.
Another cause of stress for Carlson could have been the lawsuit filed by former Fox News employee Abby Grossberg, which alleges Carlson fostered a hostile, sexist, and antisemitic workplace environment. She served as Tucker Carlson Tonight’s head of booking from July 2022 until March of this year.
In the lawsuit, Carlson is named as a co-defendant alongside Jerry Andrews, David Clark, Thomas Fox, Alexander McCaskill, Justin Wells, Lesley West, Ralph Giordano, as well as Fox Corp. and the Fox News Network. Grossberg and her lawyers allege Carlson et al. “unlawfully subjected Ms. Grossberg to a toxic work environment that is hostile to women like her.”
Many have speculated that Carlson’s ousting was in part due to the Grossberg lawsuit, and rival networks have interviewed Grossberg about her time at Fox under Carlson. Grossberg has been happy to seize on her fifteen minutes of fame. She told MSNBC in a recent interview that Carlson and Wells, the Fox host’s top producer, “were responsible for breaking me and making my life a living hell.”
“There is a feeling of justice, but it’s only partial,” Grossberg later stated.
But a report from Amber Athey in Spectator World confirmed that Grossberg never met Carlson in person while working for Tucker Carlson Tonight.
“Like many on the [Tucker Carlson Tonight] staff, Abby never met Tucker Carlson in person because he taped the show from his personal studios in Maine and Florida, and he did not visit Fox’s NY HQ during her time there,” Kimberly Catala, one of the lawyers representing Grossberg, told Athey.
In fact, Athey reports the extent of Carlson’s involvement in creating such a workplace environment in the lawsuit comes from a January 2023 conversation Grossberg had with Mr. Fox.
“We’re all under stress. This is Tucker’s tone and just the pace of the show,” Fox told Grossberg after she complained about her treatment. “In other words, Mr. Fox was admitting that the misogynistic fish rots from the head down — i.e. Mr. McCaskill behaved towards her in a deplorably discriminatory matter because he was inspired, permitted and enabled to do so by Mr. Carlson himself,” the suit claims.
It’s incredibly weak, and Fox is no stranger to suits brought against their top talent, which makes it unlikely that the Grossberg suit played a major role in Carlson’s firing, if any.
Neither the settlement nor the ongoing Grossberg lawsuit seem like sufficient reason for Fox to knock Carlson from his primetime perch. When Carlson came out on stage Friday night and warmed the crowd up, he didn’t look like a man in the hot seat.
Carlson opened by telling the crowd why he had agreed to come speak at the Heritage Foundation gala just a few years after he had aired a segment bashing the think tank’s previous president, Kay Coles James.
“The first and most immediate is that during this fall’s midterm elections, I got almost every single call wrong,” Carlson remarked. “I convinced myself there was this wave coming, this political liberation that was going to happen, and I told our viewers that in some great detail.”
Carlson explained the ordeal was so humiliating that he had to take some time off.
“So, I went pheasant hunting,” Carlson said, quickly adding, “not that it was the pheasants’ fault.” Nonetheless, Carlson “wound up in South Dakota with Kevin [Roberts], among other people.” He said he was impressed with the Heritage Foundation president.
“Really having spent my life in Washington, I can tell you if you’re not from here, the key question about anybody who runs any institution in Washington is how false is this person?”
Carlson’s assessment of Roberts: “The man who runs Heritage is not false at all.”
He was able to confirm his suspicions backstage Friday in a casual conversation with one member of Heritage’s in-house security team. Carlson asked the man what he thought of Roberts.
Typically, “they’re all former cops,” Carlson said. “You know, they’ve seen everything. They have seen humanity in various states of drunken undress. They know who’s real and who’s not.”
The unnamed security guard of Roberts, according to Carlson, said, “I would go to war for him.”
Hearing that was “absolutely thrilling for me,” said Carlson. “Because the story of the last decade is the collapse of leadership. Not of the population, the people remain noble and decent so far as I can tell. I still live here. I’m never leaving. We have good people. We have terrible people in charge.”
I talked with Roberts over the phone to get his assessment of Carlson and everything that has happened since Carlson’s speech Friday night.
“My first impression of Tucker, when I met him, was what I expected it to be,” Roberts said. “Having been a longtime fan dating back to his CNN days, I saw him to be what I always thought he would be: authentic, funny, very smart, a great communicator in a sort of almost tricky, good way. That is to say it seems like he makes it look easy, but obviously, it’s very hard.”
Kevin spent a large portion of the dinner with the host-turned-keynote. I asked if he had any indication that Carlson could be on the outs at Fox. “I had no indication that anything was percolating. And, to my knowledge, Tucker didn’t either,” Roberts said, just like Coglianese.
Backstage, the pair, “had a nice, private conversation, not that there are any state secrets there,” Roberts said. “But what I would say is that he was so joyful.”
At the dinner table, Roberts said, “Tucker got one bite of food.” Roberts told me that dozens of people from the crowd rushed their table to greet Carlson “in typical D.C. fashion.”
What was “very atypical” for D.C., Roberts explained, is that “Tucker spoke to every one of them genuinely and took pictures with them. He was far more interested in just being with them on a human level.”
Carlson continued his speech talking about his own history with the Heritage Foundation, paying homage to Ed Feulner, who gave Carlson his first job as a fact checker and copy editor for Policy Review, a quarterly magazine of the Heritage Foundation that has been published by the Hoover Institution since 2001.
The job “changed my life,” Carlson reflected. “I was paid $14,000 a year plus $100 bill for Christmas, which Dr. Fuelner gave out personally to the entire staff.” The crowd broke into riotous laughter when Carlson added, “at least half of whom went downstairs and bought liquor with it at the liquor store.”
People in the audience nodded to each other, as if they remembered getting that $100 and the crazy December night that followed the infusion of cash. Apparently, $100 stretched much further in D.C. circa 1991 than it does today.
“Tucker reflecting on his time at Heritage, and the world of white papers, and competing magazines back in the 1990s had a real moving, nostalgic quality to it,” Daniel McCarthy, editor in chief of Modern Age, told TAC. “And that helped put Tucker and his audience on the same page.”
But Carlson’s true genius, what makes him one of a kind and made him without rival for over the last half decade at Fox, was still to follow. Like any great comedian or story teller, Tucker had the audience hooked on anecdotes and howling at laugh lines that were really just details.
David Azerrad, assistant professor and research fellow at Hillsdale College’s Van Andel Graduate School of Government and formerly a Heritage Foundation employee, told TAC that Carlson’s contagious laugh is what the man’s enemies hate almost more than anything, even more than Carlson’s politics.
“The laugh is why they hate him so much. It’s because it shows that he is a free man who will not bend the knee. It shows that he laughs at their pieties. And this is what drives them insane,” Azerrad said in a phone interview. Carlson shows Americans “how to pierce through the lies and laugh at the buffoons, charlatans, and frauds.”
And then came the punchlines, not so funny.
“The week I started at Policy Review, the Soviet Union collapsed,” Carlson said. At once, the crowd seemed to lean in, as if they might miss a single word being blasted throughout the ballroom. At the end of the Cold War, America’s political elites failed to recognize two things:
“One, our entire political orientation was based on this war between the United States and the Soviet Union, this Cold War, but very much a war, and every part of our politics,” Carlson asserted.
Hubris compounded. Ideologues failed upwards. The inmates started running the asylum. It’s true: “Terrible people” are in charge.
It’s disheartening, and for good reason. Carlson continued:
You look around and you see so many people break under the strain, under the downward pressure of whatever this is that we’re going through, and you look at them with disdain and sadness as you see people you know become quislings, you see them revealed as cowards, you see them going along with a new-new thing, which is clearly a poisonous thing, a silly thing. You know, saying things you know they don’t believe because they want to keep their jobs. If there’s a single person in this room who hasn’t seen that through George Floyd, and COVID, and the Ukraine war, raise your hand. Oh, nobody? Right. You all know what I’m talking about. And you’re so disappointed in people. You know, you are, and you realize that the herd instinct is maybe the strongest instinct. Maybe stronger than the hunger and sex instincts, actually. The instinct, which again is inherent, to be like everybody else, and not to be cast out of the group, not to be shunned, that's a very strong impulse in all of us from birth. And it takes over, unfortunately, in moments like this, and it's harnessed, in fact, by bad people in moments like this, to produce uniformity.
But amid the sadness and despair, the destruction and carnage, Carlson believes there is hope.
There is, as there always is, this is a fact of nature and theology and of observable reality. There is a countervailing force at work always, there’s a counterbalance to the badness. It’s called goodness. And you see it in people. So for every ten people who are putting he and him in their electronic J.P. Morgan email signatures, there’s one person who’s like, “no, I’m not doing that… It’s a betrayal of what I think is true. It’s a betrayal of my conscience, of my faith, of my sense of myself, of my dignity as a human being, of my autonomy. I am not a slave. I am a free citizen, and I’m not doing that. And there's nothing you can do to me to make me do it. And I hope it won’t come to that. But if it does come to that, here I am. Here I am.” It's Paul on trial.
The theological overtones of Carlson’s remarks, which were littered with references back to the evening’s invocation delivered by Fr. Paul Scalia, were continuous. Carlson talked about how sins, whether it’s lying on behalf of the current thing, or an addiction to drugs or alcohol, diminish the dignity of the soul and the resilience of the human spirit—something so easy to lose and so difficult to regain.
Roberts wasn’t surprised that Carlson’s speech had a theological tint, “given the conversations he and I had earlier that day, the conversations we had on the hunting trip in South Dakota.”
“He is, like so many of us who are people of faith, coming to grips with a reality that at once is beautiful and challenging,” Roberts explained. “The challenging part of it is that you turn on any news outlet, and we have not just people saying that men are women and women are men, but even a few people on the political right defending that evil.”
“But the beautiful part is,” Roberts continued, “this has always been the case in history of the church, the universal Church: good people figure that out, and they summon the courage that I as a person of faith would say, comes from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was clearly present Friday night in Tucker’s comments, and it was profound. I was sitting just backstage, watching his comments on the monitor, and it was very moving.”
And Carlson seems to think that the mainstream addiction to the current thing has caused us to lose a sense, individually and collectively, for what diminishes and what elevates the human person. For those who came up in the Cold War, when a common, existential enemy threatened America and bound it with a collective sense of purpose, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Because, ultimately, it was an illusion.
But it is an illusion that Carlson admits twisted even his own thinking. His honesty and openness about that, from supporting the Iraq War to some economically libertarian positions, is what’s helped make him a unifying figure for those on the right who “know what time it is,” as they say.
Saurabh Sharma, president of American Moment, was in attendance for Carlson’s gala remarks. He told TAC that “the magic of Tucker Carlson, and hopefully this is something that can continue, is that he was the midwife of the changing of the guard of the older right and the younger right. He made palatable, cognizable, and attractive an entirely new way of seeing the world to older listeners, all while being exciting, relevant, and fun for younger listeners.”
Maybe it used to be that “we all want the country to be more prosperous and free” and that there was a shared objective, Carlson said. “And so we write our papers and they write their papers and may the best papers win.” But that’s not “what we’re watching now at all.”
“None of this makes sense in conventional political terms,” Carlson claimed, because “what you’re watching is not a political movement. It’s evil.”
And if you’re confused, or having trouble spotting the difference, Carlson explained the characteristics of each as he always does, quickly and clearly: “Good is characterized by order, calmness, tranquility, peace, whatever you want to call it. Lack of conflict. Cleanliness. Cleanliness is next to godliness. It’s true, it is. And evil is characterized by their opposite: violence, hate, disorder, division, disorganization, and filth.”
“So, if you are all in on the things that produce the ladder basket of outcomes, what you’re really advocating for is evil,” because violence, disorder, and filth “won't produce outcomes that any rational person would want under any circumstances.”
“That's just true,” Carlson stated. “Not calling for religious war, far from it. I’m merely calling for an acknowledgement of what we’re watching.”
Johnny Burtka, president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, conceded, “I think there are probably more reasonable people than we might think.” Nevertheless, he agreed with Carlson’s assessment. “We need to understand that what we are dealing with is something much more fundamental and much more spiritual in nature,” Burtka said. “The way the game was played 30 years ago is gone. We can’t afford to play it that way now because the stakes are so much higher.”
Azerrad also found it appropriate to frame the terms of our current political debate as a battle between good and evil, but suggested that doesn’t mean it has to be purely theological: “Is evil exclusively a theological term? Is it not also, perhaps, just a moral term that even someone who doesn’t believe in God should be able to recognize using reason?”
“For our friends on the left that are going to freak out,” Azerrad said, “Tucker did not say, ‘if you don’t agree with me, you’re evil.’ There’s any number of disagreements we can have in a republic where citizens don’t see eye to eye. They support different candidates—that doesn’t make them evil.” Nevertheless, “on some of these issues, we are dealing with evil.”
Carlson’s message was one that may not have been looked on too fondly by some in the Heritage Foundation crowd not long ago. “Probably two or three years ago, I think the room still would have been quite skeptical,” Burtka told TAC.
Some on the establishment right still insist, as Carlson said in his remarks, that “If we just get the arguments right, if we just get the white papers right, if we’re just more reasonable than we can persuade them.”
Though twice a president of a think tank, first the Texas Public Policy Foundation and now Heritage, Roberts took no offense to Carlson bashing white papers.
“That was an awesome comment!” Roberts exclaimed over the phone, jumping in midquestion. “I give the charge every week to our policy people that every word you write in a white paper needs to be oriented around action, needs to be oriented around reclaiming this country!”
Carlson, in Robert’s opinion, is well positioned to bring people to that understanding. He pointed out that Carlson is well situated generationally. As a gen X-er, he can talk to both boomers and the millennials, much like Sharma suggested. But where he is situated generationally also means that he’s connected to America’s failures over the last thirty years, which is where talent and personality come in.
Carlson’s “charm comes from his very significant honesty about himself and his own flaws,” Roberts said, adding that my generation in particular “respond[s] well to that when it’s authentic.”
The Newsweek opinion editor Josh Hammer thought Carlson “hit the nail absolutely square on the head” with the line about white papers. Hammer believes we are “in a fundamentally different era with a fundamentally different (and scarier and more totalitarian, and less reasonable) opposition.”
Carlson’s speech closed with a call to action, but not the call to action some may have thought.
Roberts believes some in the audience may have been expecting Carlson to say, “go grab your pitchforks and storm the town hall,” but “it was just so radically opposite of what people thought, it caught people off guard, which, interestingly, also made them receive it very well.”
Maybe you believe in God. Maybe you don’t and should. Carlson called on the audience to act, suggesting maybe it’s worth praying “ten minutes a day” for the state of our country. “Why not?” he asked, as his remarks came to a close.
During the brief question and answer portion between Roberts and Carlson that followed, Roberts joked with Carlson that “if things go south at Fox News, there’s always a job for you at Heritage.”
The pair laughed with the entire audience. “Well, you’ve saved me before.”
By noon Monday, things had gone south at Fox News. “Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,” Fox News said in a statement, adding that Carlson’s last show had been Friday. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.”
The man who signed off his Friday broadcast by saying, “See you on Monday,” would not. It came down like a hammer for conservatives across the country, including many who were there to witness his Friday remarks.
“I think he’s irreplaceable,” Azerrad told TAC. “The magnitude of this loss for the right and for patriotic Americans is hard to overstate. I mean, if you look at the people on the right, who are not beholden to the establishment, and have the power to speak frankly to the American people, and have a way to reach them in large numbers, it’s basically Trump and Tucker.” And they could have just gotten rid of Tucker.
Sharma was also distressed over Carlson losing his show.
“He was disciplining the entire Republican Party on a bunch of issues, especially issues that are areas of presidential politics,” he told TAC. “I think it’s worth singling out foreign policy as an issue that he was the single center of gravity. And without that pressure, I think we might see a reversion in some of the candidates that will constitute the field to a much more hawkish way of thinking.”
Hammer said that Friday’s remarks made clear Carlson’s “undisputed role as the thought leader of the contemporary American Right—and of its more nationalist-populist elements in the ’New Right,’ in particular.” Less than 72 hours later, it felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under that movement. “It is tough to see his separation from Fox News as anything other than depressing.”
McCarthy also said that Carlson was “a leader” that, for conservatives, “gave expression to…the innate or intrinsic populism in their hearts.” His firing from Fox News, “could be very significant if Tucker really can’t make a comeback of some kind. You’re going to see Fox News itself and the Republican party all start to drift back towards, if not absolute neoconservatism, back towards this establishment consensus.”
Roberts had good reason to wake up feeling good about himself Monday, given the events’ success, but when he heard the news Carlson and Fox had parted ways, he was “severely disappointed.” Roberts said, “some of my colleagues here, some of our friends and supporters of Heritage expressed to me that they were in mourning, and I felt some of that.”
I asked him about his offer to hire Carlson at Heritage if things ever went south at Fox News.
“All of that was completely spur of the moment,” Roberts chuckled. “But I also completely meant it, and Heritage will always be a home for Tucker, if in the case he finds this to be a good place to be his next platform. I don’t know what his next plans are, but I meant when I said Heritage always takes care of its own.”
Coglianese would “like to know what other events transpired between Friday night and Monday morning that would have justified removing Tucker Carlson from Fox News.” Wouldn’t we all.
Because, as Coglianese pointed out, “the only event of consequence that occurred was Tucker gave a speech about how the fight in the United States is between good and evil. And by Monday morning, he was fired.”
Coglianese believes that the initial stories around Carlson’s firing from Fox were off, or at least missing an element of cohesion.
“Some people could point to the fact that 60 Minutes had a Ray Epps special on Sunday night, and suggest maybe Fox was trying to intercept Tucker before he did a reaction episode Monday evening,” Coglianese argued.
The L.A. Times reported that the Ray Epps interview, the Dominion lawsuit, Grossberg’s lawsuit, and Carlson’s coverage of January 6 all went into the decision to fire Carlson.
“But that doesn’t make any sense to me because Tucker has talked endlessly about Ray Epps, and if that was the breaking point that would have occurred a long time ago,” Coglianese said.
If Carlson’s termination was caused by the manner in which he covered January 6, why didn’t Fox executives cut him off before he procured thousands of hours of Capitol Hill surveillance video from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in coordination with law enforcement? His recent week-long series on January 6 was hardly the first time Carlson covered January 6 in that way, and if Fox executives’ patience had worn out, they had the opportunity to act and chose not to.
What the L.A. Times report appears to get correct, however, as confirmed from other reports and TAC’s own reporting, is that this decision came from the top. The very top: Rupert Murdoch.
On Tuesday, Vanity Fair reported that Murdoch, the 92-year-old media mogul, fired Carlson because of his religious beliefs. The speech at the Heritage gala with its theological undertones was enough to make Murdoch snap.
“That stuff [theology, prayer, good versus evil] freaks Rupert out. He doesn’t like all the spiritual talk,” a source allegedly told Vanity Fair.
I asked Roberts how he’d respond if the reports that Carlson’s faith-centered speech at the Heritage was a part of his firing were true.
“My response to that would be that every time that I’m on Fox, I’m going to talk about religion and faith,” Roberts shot back. “And I, my colleagues at Heritage, our friends and supporters will never stop talking about it, even if, maybe especially if, the corporate overlords in New York tell us we shouldn’t.”
The Vanity Fair report suggests Murdoch had developed some personal animus for the face of Fox News. Sources claimed Murdoch and his ex-fiancée Ann Lesley Smith hosted Carlson for dinner at Murdoch’s Bel Air vineyard in March. Smith, a Carlson superfan, spoke to Carlson about God and theology at length.
Smith even pulled out a Bible and started reading passages from Exodus. According to the Vanity Fair report, “Rupert just sat there and stared.”
Days after the dinner, Murdoch called off the engagement. Vanity Fair previously reported that part of Murdoch’s reasoning for splitting with Smith was because she told others that Carlson is “a messenger from God.”
“By taking Carlson off the air, Murdoch was also taking away his ex’s favorite show,” Vanity Fair alleged.
TAC’s own investigation could not substantiate the claims made about the dinner itself, but Greg Price, a prominent conservative Twitter personality who writes on a Substack, reported his sources corroborated the Vanity Fair story.
Nightly, Carlson attacked a senile old man supposedly running the country, but perhaps he should have been concerned with another old man—the one running his network.
“It’s like the King is senile but no one wants to say anything,” a source reportedly told Vanity Fair of Murdoch’s continued involvement at Fox. One of Price’s sources described Murdoch as a “crazy old man.”
While Carlson enjoyed larger amounts of independence than other Fox News personalities, he still answered to Murdoch.
Multiple sources suggest Murdoch’s decision making has increasingly become erratic, both professionally and personally. Public reports have made Murdoch’s capriciousness in his dotage an open secret. In November 2022, News Corp, Fox’s parent company, decided it would oust Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Matt Murray and replace him with Sunday Times Editor Emma Tucker. Then later that month, Chris Dore, the editor of the Murdoch-owned Australian, resigned suddenly.
Fast forward to January. Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of News Corp, decided to withdraw their plan to merge Fox Corp and News Corp. And in April, Murdoch reversed course on taking Dominion to trial and sought to settle.
Fox executives have been mum since they announced Carlson’s firing, but a story placed in the Wall Street Journal—again, an outlet owned by Murdoch—claims that disparaging text messages about Fox executives and employees revealed in the Dominion suit were the cause of Carlson’s ousting.
On November 6, 2020, Carlson told an unidentified recipient, “We worked really hard to build what we have. Those (expletive) are destroying our credibility. It enrages me.”
After Fox News declared President Joe Biden the victor of the 2020 election, Carlson said, “Do the executives understand how much trust and credibility we’ve lost with our audience? We’re playing with fire, for real.”
Carlson would later send texts that Trump was also “playing with fire” with his claims of widespread voter fraud.
Over the past week, the numerous possible explanations for Carlson’s firing seem to have obscured Murdoch’s apparent primary motivations—personal vendetta and capriciousness. Of course, all of these factors might have readied Murdoch to finally snap and fire Carlson, and sources suggested as such. But the portrait painted by corporate media, lacking the personal and religious background, do not offer a complete picture.
“I think they simply were tired of having a host bigger than the network. Tucker Carlson was bigger than Fox Corp. And I think they didn't like that. That’s probably a cardinal sin at Fox Corp,” Price told TAC over the phone.
“They were tired of having a host they couldn't control.” Price continued. “There’s a reason he was the only one who talked about the things he talked about and other Fox News hosts didn't.”
As for Murdoch’s involvement, Price said, “Rupert is definitely a man who’s known for making rash decisions about these things.”
And Carlson’s firing has the potential for major electoral implications. Depending on the terms of Carlson’s contract, for which he was reportedly in the process of negotiating an extension until 2029, Carlson could be sidelined for the 2024 election.
“Just think about all the stories that are going to come out during the election that only Tucker would be covering,” Price implored over the phone. “Think about all of the research. Think about the Tony Bobulinski interviews that Tucker did in 2020 after the Post story came out where they were revealing crimes that were being committed by the Biden family.”
“An operation to do that is now essentially gone,” Price continued. “Fox News could still do it, but nobody did it better than Tucker and his team.”
On Tuesday evening, Carlson was spotted for the first time since his firing from Fox News. He was on his way to dinner with his wife Susan in Boca Grande, Florida, where the family has a large home near the beach.
Carlson stopped to briefly chat with the Daily Mail reporter who caught the two riding to a restaurant in a souped-up golf cart.
“Retirement is going great so far,” Carlson reportedly told the reporter with a chuckle. “I haven’t eaten dinner with my wife on a weeknight in seven years.”
When the reporter asked about what the future has in store for Carlson, he smiled and said, “appetizers plus entree,” and rode away.
For those clinging to updates on the Carlson saga, it was a touching moment that revealed the sacrifices Carlson made in his personal life for the attempt at bettering those of his viewers. The day after Carlson was seen quite literally driving off into the sunset, Carlson, unannounced, posted a brief video on Twitter. His first words: “Good evening,” delivered as if he was right back in the anchor’s chair. The video continued:
One of the first things you realize when you step outside the noise for a few days is how many genuinely nice people there are in this country: kind and decent people, people who really care about what’s true, and a bunch of hilarious people. Also a lot of those. It’s got to be the majority of the population even now. So that’s heartening.
But, on television, most of the debates are “unbelievably stupid,” and “in five years, we won’t even remember that we had them. Trust me, as someone who’s participated.”
Meanwhile, the important debates, the debates that will determine the future of the country, or if we have a country at all—“war, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, corporate power, natural resources,” according to Carlson—hardly receive any air time.
“What was the last time you heard a legitimate debate about any of those issues? It’s been a long time.”
“Debates like that are not permitted in American media” because “both political parties and their donors have reached consensus on what benefits them, and they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it,” Carlson explained.
Carlson went on:
Suddenly, the United States looks very much like a one party state. That’s a depressing realization. But it’s not permanent. Our current orthodoxies won’t last. They’re brain dead. Nobody actually believes them. Hardly anyone’s life is improved by them. This moment is too inherently ridiculous to continue. And so it won’t. The people in charge know this. That’s why they’re hysterical and aggressive. They’re afraid. They’ve given up persuasion, they’re resorting to force, but it won’t work. When honest people say what’s true, calmly and without embarrassment, they become powerful. At the same time, the liars who’ve been trying to silence them shrink. They become weaker. That’s the iron law of the universe: true things prevail. Where can you still find Americans saying true things? There are many places left, but there are some and that’s enough. As long as you can hear the words, there is hope.
Those who thought it was so over were quickly rejoicing. We are so back.
Burtka was among them. While he admitted it’s a big loss no longer to have Carlson on prime time television, he believes “the best is yet to come” for the former Fox host.
“I see the world more through individuals than I do institutions because I think it’s really individuals that hold the institutions together,” Burtka said. “I guess you could call it kind of like the great man theory of history.”
Carlson, in Burtka’s eyes, seems to have that kind of potential. “Without trying to exaggerate the point, he reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt, just in terms of raw energy and dynamism.” He’s “a force of nature.”
“Whatever Tucker does next, I am hopeful that it will be bigger and more impactful than what came before,” Burtka added.
Roberts too believes whatever comes next for Carlson is going to be better.
“In this case, we get to have great rejoicing about a friend who has suffered a really poor business decision, not by any fault of his own,” Roberts said. “He’s untethered from corporate media,” and “he clearly has a lot more to say.”
Coglianese put it this way: “He’s not dead. He’s free.”
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The last supper wasn’t in fact the last. Maybe Carlson will be dining with us again.
Carlson’s last words in the video he posted on Twitter Wednesday night:
“See you soon.”