Employer Rupert Murdoch Turned Out to Be a More Important Tucker Carlson “Spy” Than the NSA

In a piece that I otherwise find unpersuasive, Josh Marshall argued that the reports that Fox News President Suzanne Scott didn’t tell Tucker why he was being fired explain why we’re getting such a conflicting range of explanations for his summary shit-canning.

It’s been reported that Suzanne Scott, CEO of Fox News, didn’t tell Carlson why he was being fired when she gave him the news. If that’s true, that pushes me more to consider this possibility. It also might explain why you have all this miscellany of often contradictory theories and explanations about what “contributed” to the decision. Maybe no one at Fox has any idea and all the sources are basically speculating about possible vulnerabilities they believe must be the answer.

Axios reported that Scott made the decision with Lachlan Murdoch to fire Tucker Carlson Friday night, though other outlets more credibly report that Rupert was also personally involved.

Fox surely anticipated that Tucker would sue, which may be why Scott didn’t give Tucker an explanation for his firing, yet. But that has created a void of uncertainty about the firing.

It is true that Abby Grossberg, the former Tucker producer who has sued Fox in SDNY for the hostile work environment at Fox generally and specifically on Tucker’s show, and sued Fox in Delaware for how they dealt with her testimony in the Dominion case, has an incentive to emphasize her role in the firing (as she has). I agree with Opening Arguments that the DE suit is far more likely to be related (a paragraph from her SDNY suit that has attracted attention, in which Tucker seemingly speaks favorably about statutory rape, is not tied to her own complaints and was already public). But I also think that the DE suit also includes a bunch of stuff designed to leverage Fox’s legal exposure that has nothing to do with the actual complaint. Plus, Tucker has little to do with the main thrust of the complaint; Scott and other corporate people do, so firing Tucker won’t help. Also note, as far as I understand it, the recordings Grossberg referred to in her suit seem to be transcribed interviews not otherwise aired on TV, not private recordings of Tucker.

Of note, the claim that Tucker asked but Grossberg was unable to get a Proud Boy lawyer to claim the insurrection was caused by FBI informants, for example, makes no sense.

Upon information and belief, in early-March 2023, Mr. Carlson attempted to spin and manufacture another false narrative to defray blame from Fox News about the January 6th insurrection, this time, characterizing the Capitol attack as an FBI coup, and not the logical result of Fox News’s reckless 2020 election fraud coverage. Specifically, Mr. Carlson requested that his team investigate the ongoing Proud Boys trial, which he asserted was “taking forever” because the “Biden Administration [wa]s trying to hide the huge number of FBI spies it had placed in the group.” As Head of Booking, Ms. Grossberg was twice directed to reach out to Dan Hull, one of the defense attorneys representing the Proud Boys, who indicated to her that he was available to come on to the TCT show as a guest but emphatically denied Mr. Carlson’s theory. Instead, Mr. Hull insisted that “no one made my client go up the hill. The Proud Boys wanted to,” and the FBI angle Mr. Carlson sought to peddle was “on the conspiracy side.” When Ms. Grossberg relayed Mr. Hull’s message to Tom Fox, a Senior Producer for TCT and her superior, he blithely replied “That doesn’t fit with what Tucker is looking for. You’ll have to find someone else who will say that.” Ms. Grossberg was told to ask Mr. Hull yet again if he would reconsider, to which Mr. Hull replied, “Please just tell [Tucker], if I get on the show, I will walk out if he asks about the FBI setting it up. […] Blaming the FBI for Jan 6th doesn’t cut it.” Mr. Carlson then requested that Ms. Grossberg investigate whether any other defense attorneys, including Steven Metcalf, would tout the conspiracy on air.

Dominic Pezzola lawyer Roger Roots seems to have, as a primary purpose, floating the kinds of conspiracy theories that will attract attention on Tucker’s show or Jim Jordan’s committee. And in his closing arguments, Nick Smith made wild leaps to push the informant angle. So the lawyers willing to make these claims were certainly available (if unwilling to risk a gag order by going on TV). Plus, Tucker’s propaganda about January 6 long predated the Dominion exposure

But Grossberg’s claim might be where this claim, from the LAT, came from (which has, in turn, led to the improbable claim that Epps’ complaints about Tucker’s coverage played a key role).

Murdoch also was said to be concerned about Carlson’s coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The host has promoted the conspiracy theory that it was provoked by government agents, and Carlson has called Ray Epps — an Arizona man who participated in the storming of the Capitol but did not enter the building — an FBI plant, without presenting any evidence.

Tucker’s conspiracy theories about January 6 have been far more unhinged than anything Fox has been sued for by a voting machine company, and that’s saying something. But, again, they’re not a recent development — back in June 2021, Tucker defamed Thomas Caldwell’s spouse Sharon based off an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.

All of which leads me to suspect that this, also from Axios, may best explain what brought Fox to firing Tucker.

A slew of material was uncovered during pre-trial discovery that implicated Carlson. More information could be out there that could be legally damaging for Fox as it stares down more defamation cases.

None of the rest of Axios’ explanations make sense (as Grossberg’s DE suit does, Axios lists stuff that would not implicate Tucker personally). Many of the other public explanations make no sense.

But what does seem plausible is that between Dominion, Smartmatic, and Grossberg’s twin suits, Fox lawyers have spent a lot of time reading through digital records of Tucker’s statements. And — again, it seems plausible — one or many of the things they’ve seen there made it clear Fox could no longer sustain the legal exposure Tucker (and his Executive Producer Justin Wells, who was also shit-canned) represented, possibly even for reasons unrelated to any of the lawsuits.

There’s an irony here.

Back when Tucker first revealed that he had been picked up in NSA intercepts of texts and emails he exchanged with Russian go-betweens, he claimed the NSA was trying to take him off the air. That was in 2021, and his FOIA to the NSA suggested the contacts had gone back to January 2019. In his more recent March complaint that his efforts to cozy up to Putin got “spied on” by the NSA, he revealed the NSA had read his Signal texts, as well as the emails he sent purportedly setting up an interview with Putin.

For all his wailing that the NSA’s access to such comms was an attempt to get him fired, it didn’t happen.

But once Rupert’s lawyers reviewed Tucker’s communications, it did.

I’m not arguing that Tucker’s coziness with Putin got him fired (though Glenn Greenwald keeps complaining, in two languages, that Tucker was fired for falsely claiming that members of the African People’s Socialist Party were arrested because of their opposition to the Ukraine war, rather than because they were on the FSB payroll).

I’m stating a truism. In virtually all cases, “surveillance” of your communications by your employer can have a far more immediate and lasting impact than surveillance of your communications by the NSA.

Update: Daily Beast says the final straw was the number of times he called Sidney Powell the c-word.

Update: In comments, wasD4v1d referenced this Aaron Blake piece making a similar point.

Update: Murdoch property WSJ reports that one of the big factors was the disparaging comments Tucker made about others.

On Monday, Mr. Carlson’s famously combative stance toward members of Fox News management and other colleagues caught up with him, as the network abruptly announced it was parting ways with him, just minutes after informing Mr. Carlson of the change.

The private messages in which Mr. Carlson showed disregard for management and colleagues were a major factor in that decision, according to other people familiar with the matter. Although many portions of the Dominion court documents are redacted, there is concern among Fox Corp. executives that if the redacted material were to become public, it would lead to further embarrassment for the network and parent company.


The Dominion court filings are filled with examples of him disparaging colleagues, from calling for the firing of Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich for fact-checking Mr. Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election to complaining about the network’s news coverage, including the decision to call Arizona for Mr. Biden on election night.

115 replies
  1. wasD4v1d says:

    I like the way this harmonizes with Aaron Blake’s ‘all of the above’ take on WaPo. Carlson was another loose cannon that needed to be tossed overboard because (my descant here) it threatened the sails, rigging, masts, and all that cash in the hold.

    • NeoGeoHa says:

      The old adage again: “Don’t F with the money” That, I firmly believe until convinced otherwise, is why TC got fired. It sure as hell didn’t happen to reset the truth and decency meters closer to ‘normal’ at Fox.

    • freebird says:

      If there was liability insurance involved, Fox’s insurers would have raised their premiums to recover the Dominion payout and any future damage that Carlson would cause. No Carlson, no premium increases.

      Carlson is like O’Reilly who cost Fox tens of millions before he was cashiered.

  2. JonathanW says:

    I love the truism that you cite at the end of this post (about corporate surveillance of employee comms). I’m curious if some of those comms were on internal company channels/devices (say, a Slack channel) or if it was all personal stuff that got revealed in these suits. In my personal career, I’ve been shocked at what people will say about their employer on a company channel or device, thinking it won’t be observed.

  3. Peterr says:

    It is always possible that there are multiple reasons Tucker got fired. I can see a meeting with five of the top brass at Fox talking about this, and each one of the five has a different reason for showing him the door — but they all agreed that he had to go.

    That would also explain the lack of a formal statement to Tucker that includes a reason for his dismissal. After all, it would look bad to say “We have *so* many reasons for canning you, that it would only invite questions as to why we let you stick around so long.”

    • bmaz says:

      It would be nearly impossible for me to care less about why Tucker got fired. Will give Rupert a bit of credit for getting on with it. Would have been a lot smarter to have done that a year ago or more though, but Rupert is the ultimate Ferengi.

      • YinzerInExile says:

        Hmm . . .

        “A contract, is a contract, is a contract… but only between Ferengi”; or

        “Dignity and an empty sack is worth the sack”; or

        “Employees are the rungs on the ladder of success… don’t hesitate to step on them”?

        Likely all three. So, I agree; the ultimate Ferengi. Well-played, sir.

      • Peterr says:

        The reasons that most interest me are the ones that may be related to ongoing litigation involving Fox.

        And you are correct about Rupert, though (as he is learning the hard way) even Ferengi sometimes get held to account. Between all the litigation here in the US (from O’Reilly and Ailes style harassment suits to Dominion and other 2020-related suits) and the litigation in the UK around Murdoch’s tabloids (and others) phone-hacking the Royal Family, everything that has gone around for decades now seems to be coming around against him, all at the same time.

        Yes, getting on with it with respect to Tucker was the right call, but he’s got many other calls to make that he hasn’t yet made.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Whatever the scandal(s) might be, the mere fact it was so head-snapping abrupt rules against legal exposure being the last straw. Litigation generally moves like lava, dangerous but its risks are known and not very fast. Faux would have plenty of time to send Tucker on a ‘vacation’ before putting him on the Tarpeian Rock. Dominion and Smartmatic claims were also raised loudly by Maria Bartiromo (who is still on air) and she may have been first.

          Also, the producer got kicked out too, which would tend to point away from sordid personal issues (unless they’re part of the coverup) which would also usually have ‘rumors’ beforehand like BillO had. IMHO, it’s probably something involving Putin and the Russians. What ‘smoking guns’ would do the trick, I do not know but perhaps some irrefutable communications between Vlad and Tucker.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It’s only head-snappingly fast from the outside, and because Fox chose not to reveal credible reasons for it. Who knows how long this was in the works, and what other options were considered.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          I have no doubt the reason is a lulu. No reason for it was in my mind a rather curious choice for Faux because almost every HR type has a few justifications in the back pocket. Leaving that box blank invites Carlson’s legal team to speculate about why and question whether any real evidence exists.

          Now, is Faux an at-will employer? If so, they don’t technically have to provide a reason but it may cost Faux later. What does Carlson’s contract say about termination?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Whether NY is an at-will employment state would not be relevant. When someone is paid $35 million a year, both sides want everything in a contract, including termination rights.

      • Legonaut says:

        The main reason I care about why Tucker (and his producer!) got fired has more to do with why the rest of their on-air talent are still employed. Just how badly do you have to step on your crank at Faux to get the axe? Hannity, Bartiromo, Boxwine, Doocey, etc. — they’ve all seemed to commit the same on-air sins. It must be specific to Tucker’s show, or his producer wouldn’t be involved (and the axe would swing wider), and it must be really/potentially expensive to invoke the cold calculus of the Ferengi.

        (Love that description of Rupert!)

  4. Spank Flaps says:

    Imagine Tucker’s boss having to say “Please stop using that kind of language about Ms Powell. There’s too many c*nts in this office!”

    • GSSH-FullyReduced says:

      I spent a year DownUnder and the ‘c-word’ was used a lot just about everywhere back in the 80s&90s, by both genders. Murdochs likely tolerated its use so I doubt this factored into TC being booted.

  5. Troutwaxer says:

    I suspect the really big deal is that Fox will soon head in a slightly different, but still right-wing direction with their news/opinion shows; specifically, a direction which they feel is less much less likely to get them sued. They’ve probably got enough on Tucker that they can claim any number of good legal reasons for firing him, so being sued by Carlson isn’t a huge problem for them… but the real reason for the firing is pour encourager les autres – if Tucker can be fired, anyone can.

    The big deal for FOX at this point is that the lawsuits against Newsmax and OAN mean they no longer have to worry about their right flanks in terms of how they cover the news and what opinions they deliver. So they’ll go back to the less-crazy model they used before 2015 and let Smartmatic and Dominion solve their OAN and Newsmax problems. Or at least that’s the plan.

    • Sue 'em Queequeg says:

      “If Tucker can be fired, anyone can.” I’ve always assumed that the Murdochs, consciously or unconsciously, pay close attention to the line between someone in their stable having star power and having too much star power — power that begins to edge into control, to shift the center of gravity a bit too far. Obviously this wouldn’t be the sole reason for Carlson’s departure, but you don’t get to where the Murdochs are without constantly doing this sort of reptile-brain math. And the math in this case would be favorable, for the many reasons pointed out in this (fabulous) space.

      • duderino says:

        As was noted yesterday by Joy Reid, Tucker is the former employee (or pundit on retainer) of CNN, NPR, MSNBC and now FOX. He is eminently fireable.

        • Sue 'em Queequeg says:

          Yes! Although at none of those places was he nearly as big a deal as at Fox.

          I tried pretty hard to keep this history of firings out of my schadenfreude fuel supply but it got in there anyway.

        • Fishstix Fascist says:

          He was also kicked out of a fancy Swiss boarding school, and had to complete prep school in Rhode Island. Even Kim Jong-Un managed to stay in his Swiss boarding school and he’s a moron.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Rupert Murdoch, and even more so, Lachlan, are immensely powerful utilitarians. Tucker was a tool. He stayed around so long as he was useful. When that was no longer true, or when he became counterproductive toward meeting some other end, he went in the dumpster. Like everyone and everything else.

  6. JVO says:

    Rupert is a ruthless Australian, does anyone really believe he cares that someone was called a cvnt, let alone fire a top $$$ maker for it. That’s about as gullible as it gets imho.
    It would be equally bad to believe that his purposeful lies and propaganda are/were somehow limited to Fox News channel.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. SECOND REQUEST: Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next. We are migrating to a new standard requiring unique usernames of a minimum 8 letters. You’ve been given ample time to make that change since first request last October. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  7. Cort Youngen Greene says:

    Great analysis again. Greenwald has been promoting the Red-Brown Alliance for many years now and APSP has been cosplaying at being on the “left” for 50 years, working w/ Alexander Dugin & fascists since 2014 and IMO is an abusive and exploitative cult which is a front for a multi-million dollar business, built by unpaid Black labor, yet controlled by wealthy whites in the “subordinate” Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM).

  8. Rwood0808 says:

    What is the legal upside of firing Tucker?

    I have to ask as I don’t see one. Keeping him on the payroll would at least give Fox some measure of control and secure the flow of information. By firing him they have given up what leverage they had over him. He now has little to nothing to lose by speaking out against them.

    So what did Fox really gain by showing him the door? It’s not going to keep the lawsuits from coming at them, so what did it stop?

      • Rwood0808 says:

        I know everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot, but the question stands.

        It’s not shame or public opion as Tucker has been a nazi for years and they had no problem with that. He’s worth $420 million according to the internet and brings in several times his $35m salary, so its not money.

        Fox is a business and there is always a risk/reward calculation for things like this. Controlling the situation becomes vital. So giving up what control you have by firing him is not the smart move. Better to maintain that control until the crisis has passed and then cut him lose.

        So my question remains: what is the legal upside to firing him?

        • bmaz says:

          Not everybody who disagrees is an idiot, but you certainly are. My “question remains” why not. And you have not posited jack shit.

      • Rwood0808 says:

        Add to that the fact that he still has a large following, one that he can now take to another network where he can air his grievances at will. Did Fox leadership even consider that possibility, or were they too mad about the mean things he said about them to care?

        • Rayne says:

          So what are the downsides since you apparently know what they are?

          It’s not money because he’s likely to cost Fox News and News Corp more than he brings in from advertisers.

          I wonder if Media Matters has any data on any changes in advertising have occurred related to Carlson’s slot between 2015 and this week — it might be quite interesting to see if some major ad buyers dropped off permanently.

        • Fran of the North says:

          This where my thoughts were going as well. As ethically challenged as many are, advertisers *do* care about how their brands are perceived by the marks…er…customers. Maybe a few of the big advertisers told Fox that they didn’t like being constantly associated with conspiracy theories, even if they hadn’t changed spending to date.

        • Rayne says:

          The settlement may have been the trigger to which advertisers pointed — if there were calls to Fox News between the settlement and Friday in which ad buyers told Fox “we can’t be seen buying ads from a network which has admitted lying repeatedly to the public,” it could have spurred Carlson’s termination as a sacrifice to maintain ad sales going forward.

          Wonder if ad buyers had concerns their corporations might be liable if seen as endorsing Fox’s lies.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          The advertising revenue is barely a consideration for Fox. Tucker had hardly any advertisers left actually.

          From Media Matters 4/20/23: “Fox News wants a massive increase in its cable fees — which will be paid for by all cable subscribers”

          “These fees are the majority of revenue for Fox, more even than advertising, and they are significantly higher than those charged by the network’s competitors. Fox has been able to raise prices and charge disproportionately high rates due to its history of deceptive and aggressive negotiating tactics during contract renewal talks with providers.

          During a February 2022 earnings call, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch announced that 70% of the network’s cable and satellite contracts will be up for renewal during fiscal years 2023 and 2024. Murdoch has signaled to investors that Fox aims to continue to increase affiliate revenue even as the cord-cutting trend continues to accelerate, shrinking the consumer base.”


        • Rayne says:

          It’s not just advertisers for Carlson’s program, but the entire network because it was the network which was sued. Any/all advertisers endorse the lies by continuing to buy ads from Fox; the easiest way to satisfy advertisers there will be a sea change is take out the most obvious problem.

          Carlson’s contract was also up soon and under renegotiation. The timing worked for Fox.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Fair enough point about the renegotiation, but I don’t see why that cause would be so abrupt as to have Carlson launched without a signoff first thing Monday AM. Someone was really angry or really worried that his departure couldn’t wait and FWIW it did not seem to me that Carlson had been going that far afield on Friday.

          The timing is important, I think. The reported causes were already present for a while.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          This–the cable-fee negotiations, ongoing–is where my mind went. Tucker may have become too toxic for carriers to agree to pass on charges to customers–who might demand Fox be dropped from packages.

        • Fishstix Fascist says:

          Fox News makes the vast chunk of its annual revenues from cable carrier subscriber fees, not the advertising. Murdochs currently negotiating new fees, reports say they want $3 per subscriber, which is insane.

        • timbozone says:

          Thank you, Rayne. I see the esteemed commenter that started this subthread has not seen fit to reply…

    • Attygmgm says:

      Tucker was presumably deposed by Dominion. As to the still-pending defamation suits, his account is largely locked in by that testimony, so any new motivation he may have to tell a different story about those issues is going to be limited by his having already given testimony while he was in the fold.

      • Rwood0808 says:

        Thank you.

        Is it correct/safe to assume that everything covered in the Dominion suit is the same as that being alleged in the Smartmatic suit?

        I would think that Fox would want to retain as much control over him as possible until these suits are all concluded, hence my question as to what they gained, from a strickly legal standpoint, by firing him.

        Maybe the question should be what did they “not lose” by doing so.

        • bmaz says:

          No. The actions are not the same. Similar? Sure. Analogous? Sure. They could have done better for their bottom line by cutting bait quite a bit ago. But Ferengi gonna Ferengi.

        • Hairy Chris says:

          Smartmatic will be able to cite the Dominion case in it’s filings now, including the judgement on facts, etc. And yeah, Carlson was deposed by Dominion and had his phone & emails scooped up by discovery (which Fox, to some degree, has now seen. Ooops).

          Getting sued for similar stuff multiple times can kinda snowball once the cases progress.

    • Peterr says:

      They gained the Inspector Renault defense: “We’re shocked – shocked, I tell you – to discover that someone has been lying on the air around here.”

      Not that this will be worth much, mind you, but it’s better than what they have had to work with.

      • Rwood0808 says:

        I can certainly agree with that.

        Not trying to stir the pot with that question, but my reading tells that an institution faced with a threat to its, ahem, integrity has a standard response of A) Get the story out first. B) Control the narrative, and C) Be prepared to counter the pushback.

        So it seems odd to fire their number one spin doctor when they need him the most. If their viewers are their money it would seem a smart move to keep them in the bubble and watching their favorite talking head. Plus, I still don’t see what leverage they gained inside the courtroom.

        Thanks for the reply Peterr.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL As much as I agree with bmaz that your comment sounds like JAQ-ing off, you’re the one asking the question, you surely have some upside in mind in spite of your apologia for Tucker or you wouldn’t have asked. You would have opened yourself up by simply stating you see no upside.

      So, what is the legal upside? I’m just asking.

      • Rwood0808 says:

        Why my question is getting so much pushback I have no idea. You both seem to be under the impression that I’m trolling you or have some hidden agenda. I do not.

        I’m simply trying to find an answer to the question of why Tucker was let go and what the legal ramifications of that might be. To do so I’m placing myself in the chair of a guy named Murdoch and weighing the pros and cons of doing so. It has to be A) Public Perception B) Legal Exposure C) Money, or D) all of the above.

        D is obviously the safe answer but it doesn’t explain to what extent each item before it was given weight. Fox owns the bubble, so Public Perception can be controlled when it comes to the viewers. Not so with the advertisers or shareholders. Money is tied to both groups via cable fees and Tuckers own contract, as Rayne explained so well in her comment. That leaves legal exposure as the remaining unknown, which was the core of my question.

        If the damage is already done, as Attygmgm pointed out in his comment, and there is no significant difference between the Dominion discovery and what will come from the Smartmatic case, as Bmaz pointed out, then there may be no legal impact to firing Tucker, unless they’re worried about him being pissed off and wanting revenge on Fox and the Murdochs in his coming depositions. If that is true then maybe should have waited and kept what little control over him they had. One of their forced leave of absences maybe.

        Eventually I think Bmaz will be proven right and it will all come down to money. Or even more likely, we’ll never really know.

        • Rayne says:

          Dude. It’s obvious Fox News and News Corp already have legal exposure, which is why you’re getting pushback.

          And legal exposure = money.

    • tje.esq@23 says:

      I’ve been waiting for a lawyer who practices Contracts Law to nip this in the bud, but after 50+ comments, I have yet to see an “expert” reply to this cross talk. So here goes.

      The question is not “What is the upside to Fox?” but instead the statement “There is no downside for Fox, in the long term, but for Tucker, speaking out has a HUGE, multi-million dollar downside” is what is relevant here. Why? Because Tucker’s 2021 renewal contract is what is controlling his current behavior right now. If Tucker wants to waive his right to receive his severance pay, which media reports suggest could be as high as $40 million (2 years of current pay as the only “buy out”) or face other harsh consequences, Carlson will do what that contract likely tells him to do:
      a – keep your mouth shut
      b – you can’t work again in media until we tell you that you can.

      New York state law forbids employment contracts of Broadcast Journalists, SPECIFICALLY, from including non-compete clauses, but, as far as I know, non-disparagement clauses (what ‘a’ above relates to) are allowed. We know from reporting that Shep Smith was not allowed to pursue employment for 6 months after his voluntary, “amicable,” parting with Fox News a few years ago. And this is the effect of what a non-compete clause does — it keeps you from working for competitors within a certain miles’ radius and for a certain number of months after severence. Because Shep was clearly being faithful to this contract term, it suggests that his contract did somehow include a non-compete clause, despite the law in New York, because Fox found a way around this.*

      And, since Shep’s contract contained this clause, I think it is safe to infer Tucker had one as well. Therefore, it is exceptionally likely that his current contract (or the one that had its severance clause triggered yesterday) tells Tucker what he can and cannot say right now (and for how long he must hold his tongue), as well as how long he has to sit on the bench and not pursue any type of media job, and when and where he can work in media again. With his super-star status, I wouldn’t be surprised if the clause could attempt to keep him out of the biz for as long as 12+ months, which would be looked upon disfavorably by courts, most likely.

      So, Tucker is bound by contract as to what he can say and what he can do with his career. And, as long as Fox feels the silence and non-compete periods are sufficiently long, I’m sure the Murdochs find the short term pain worth the long term gain. The wild card, however, is if the network factored in potential future litigation by Carlson in this calculus. If anything, we’ve learned that law suits have unpredictable implications.

      *possible ways around NY law:
      1. write and execute a contract under a different U.S. state’s law, or
      2. find a clever way to include non-competes in their contracts despite the NY law, or
      3. the NY law has changed and this non-contracts lawyer didn’t know this.
      It’s not plausible that non-competes would only be triggered by voluntary leaving (Shep), because the involuntary departure of Lou Dobbs provoked similiar post-severance behavior by Dobbs: silence and benching. Although, arguably the latter could be due to other networks’ assessments of Dobbs’ “hirability.”

  9. Badger Robert says:

    Its related to the lawsuit. His off air communications, and his conduct during the litigation handicapped the defense, per Ed Walker. And it seems his conduct did not change even as the liability became more apparent.
    Thanks for letting us follow along.

  10. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    Speaking strictly for myself…

    I’m delighted that Fox pushed Tucker overboard…

    And hopefully, they stuffed an anvil down his pants before doing so…

  11. Connor Lynch says:

    Tucker’s golden parachute negotiations are going to be challenging if Fox has a claim for contribution from him for the giant defamation claim they just had to pay out in part because of his conduct.

  12. Savage Librarian says:

    All of the speculation about why Tucker was fired is focused on the past. But business is focused on the future. In addition to all the past costs associated with Tucker’s bad behavior, there are also potential future earnings and politics that might have been taken into consideration.

    For example, comments have been made about the various public and governmental venues in which Fox seems to be the only channel playing. Maybe there is some kind of contract or understanding that DOD has with Fox to promote Fox on military bases. Maybe airports have one, too. Why is Fox so omnipresent? Who makes those decisions? Is it mandated or serendipitous?

    For sake of argument, let’s say that there is some kind of agreement, at least in some locations. Maybe there was a new condition inserted in some of those agreements. The new condition may have said something like: Get rid of Tucker or we will no longer renew our agreement.

    • Peterr says:

      There are no agreements like the one you describe. There are, however, business owners/employees who hold the remotes, and they get to decide what goes on the TV.

      Here in Missouri, the televisions in many waiting rooms (medical, car repair facilities, etc.) are tuned to Fox, because the person holding the remote thinks that “our customers” would rather hear Fox as opposed to CNN or MSNBC.

      There are others, though, have The Food Network or HGTV or some similarly non-political station because they don’t want to piss off some segment of their customer base.

      If I have a choice, I will chose the latter business — and let them know why.

      • Greg Hunter says:

        When I traveled in the early 2000s, the race to the remote control in the breakfast area of the hotel was a game I used to play. If I arrived to late, I would stand in front of the TV playing Fox and tell those watching they were being lied too.

        In retrospect it was good training for my future as a Democrat in Wyoming.

    • GSSH-FullyReduced says:

      Yes SL, many of us have noted the phenomenon that FoxN plays 24×7 on many public and government facilities and it’s worrisome to us. Not sure about ‘agreements’ but influencing gullible folks seems to be the motive and TC did an awful lot of that.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Thank you, again. The reporting on this has been terrible.

    Something tells me the potty mouths among the c-suiters at Fox would not miss a beat at the frequent use of the “c” word or many others.

    I agree that it is likely to be something undisclosed that makes Rupert Murdoch think that Swanson heir and Father Coughlin impersonator, Tucker Carlson, might become an expensive embarrassment (measured by Rupert’s expansive pockets). It’s ironic that, if Tucker were ever to become that in Putin’s Russia, he would be thrown out of something besides his office.

    • timbozone says:

      The reporting on this has been a bit histrionic but relatively normal IMO. Can you explain what has been out of the normal for this story about Carlson being fired from Fox? Frankly, no, we don’t all get to magically know instantly why someone was fired just because we feel like we should…

      Bmaz and others at this site have been emphasizing that the law works slower than our emotions ad nauseum. The same goes for newstories about why someone was fired as journalist from a cable network. You don’t and won’t get all the details immediately. And that’s expected from the reality of how these things work in real life, not in our imaginations.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Why fire Tucker Carlson? What else is not being discussed because so much print and air time is being devoted to reading the tea leaves about Tucker’s unexplained firing?

  15. Rwood0808 says:

    Just the Saudi/Iran peace deal, the impact of China…everywhere, the going rate for a Supreme Court Justice, and of course, what Joey Taco said today.

    • bmaz says:

      Who is “Joey Taco”? Is there no end to dumbass nicknames?

      Tacopina is what he is, but PLEASE stop with the dumbshit nicknames.

  16. ExRacerX says:

    Thanks for the insight. It makes sense there were likely multiple reasons & motives for Carlson’s firing, one being his ramped up cage-rattling and nipping at Rupert Murdoch’s feeding hand in the days following the Dominion settlement. WTF did he think would happen?

  17. fubar jack says:

    I’d like to think that he will retire with his millions to a quiet life. But no. He will find another platform to commit arson.

  18. Gerontar says:

    Slightly off topic and way out of my lane, but I wonder whatever happened to the trove of Jan 6 data that Kevin McCarthy gave to Tucker Carlson? Could that be related in any way to the abrupt firing?

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Gabriel Sherman surmises that Rupert Murdoch was freaked out by Tucker Carlson’s Heritage Foundation speech last Friday night, “I have concluded it might be worth taking just 10 minutes out of your busy schedule to say a prayer for the future, and I hope you will.”

    That plea for no doubt Christian prayer followed Tucker’s description of American politics as, “a manichean battle between “good” and “evil.” …[P]eople advocating for transgender rights and DEI programs want to destroy America and they could not be persuaded with facts. “We should say that and stop engaging in… fraudulent debates…I’ve tried. That doesn’t work.” So says the guy who has done more than anyone to make American politics a false debate between black and white, evil and good.

    “Could not be persuaded with facts.” LOL. As if facts were the basis for any Tucker Carlson argument.

    As for Sherman’s surmise, I don’t buy it. Rupert may not like what Sherman calls Tucker’s messianism, but he knows it’s no more sincere than any other public argument Carlson makes. Whatever Murdoch’s rationale, we haven’t heard it yet.


    • BobBobCon says:

      What I find most interesting in that piece is this final bit of speculation: “It’s like the King is senile but no one wants to say anything,” the source said…. “Once the trial began, the lawyers told Fox execs that Murdoch would be ‘disgraced on the stand, run out of the boardroom, and his testimony will expose him as a lunatic sliding into senility.””

      That could be completely wrong. Rupert Murdoch may be completely in control.

      But it’s awfully weird to me that nobody seems prepared to prove it.

      When Jonathan Martin, top White House correspondent for the NY Times, ran his embarassingly out of touch front page “analysis” that Biden was too old to be president, events quickly proved Martin was a hack — it wasn’t too long after publication that Biden journeyed to Kviv to stand with Zelensky not far from where Russian missiles and bombs had struck.

      Where is the evidence that Rupert Murdoch is in charge, at a time when Fox desperately needs it made clear that he’s not the guy who got engaged to a born again grifting right wing talk radio host? Why isn’t his own mainstream newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, running front page news (not editorial page) articles with a rundown on his minute by minute command of details and events?

      The “void” referenced in that Sherman piece is telling. Where is Rupert Murdoch?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        That “final bit of speculation” reads like a Tucker Carlson hit piece. As you say, where’s the evidence his lawyers thought or said that? Where’s the evidence he’s suffering from dementia or that he’s not in charge, or that he is, despite his dementia, which would tank the stock?

        There may be byzantine jockeying among his heirs and courtiers to replace a 92-year old titan, there almost certainly is, but there’s little public evidence of it. And rumors based on what ignorant outsiders might surmise is just playing the rubes.

        All in, I found Sherman’s piece fanciful and of not much weight.

        • timbozone says:

          Indeed. It’s more likely that there were incompetent/foolish lawyers involved here on the Fox side than anything else. Hubris playing out is what we’re seeing in this weeks news cycle. The Tucker is just one such story in a big pile of them.

  20. Molly Pitcher says:

    Ari Melber, on MSNBC, just played two formerly unheard recordings of Ted Cruz from January 2, discussing a plan to over throw the election prior to Jan 6. The first is Cruz talking to Maria Bartiromo about denying the certification on January 6. The second recording is Cruz telling her that the certification would be denied and a fake commission would review the election and declare it a fraud and over throw the election.

  21. KO_26APR2023_0615h says:

    Given that the decision was made by a single person, it was most likely made for a variety of reasons. Rupert was probably the only thing keeping him there in the first place, the default position would have been to eject the dangerous white supremacist mouthpiece for Putin starting around 2020. Murdoch kept him there as a hedge against the OANs and NewsMaxes, to keep the right wing fringe and MAGA cult on foxes side. Also he no doubt agreed with the trust fund nazi.

    Rupert probably started getting a bunch of calls from a bunch of people. Lawyers telling him that the transcripts were going to be brutal in court, money folks squealing about the $billion he was costing them, people with souls mentioning that Tucker was a literal Nazi and hung out with pedophiles. Might have come down to a final straw, but there had to have been a lot of growing animus against Carlson.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too short it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first know comment until you have a new compliant username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Rayne says:

      Share a reported (not opinion) piece which says “the decision [to fire Carlson] was made by a single person.

      There have been a number of articles linked here which report Lachlan Murdoch and Suzanne Scott made the decision on Friday and fired Carlson without offering an explanation to him at that time.

  22. tryggth says:

    At first I thought it might have been the Epps thing. But Ted pointed (https://twitter.com/tedcruz/status/1651023654438748160?s=20) to something that reminded me how dependent the modified Eastman plan was on poll numbers (https://www.cruz.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/joint-statement-from-senators-cruz-johnson-lankford-daines-kennedy-blackburn-braun-senators-elect-lummis-marshall-hagerty-tuberville):

    “…unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.

    “Voter fraud has posed a persistent challenge in our elections, although its breadth and scope are disputed. By any measure, the allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes.

    “And those allegations are not believed just by one individual candidate. Instead, they are widespread. Reuters/Ipsos polling, tragically, shows that 39% of Americans believe ‘the election was rigged.’ That belief is held by Republicans (67%), Democrats (17%), and Independents (31%).

    “Some Members of Congress disagree with that assessment, as do many members of the media.

    “But, whether or not our elected officials or journalists believe it, that deep distrust of our democratic processes will not magically disappear. It should concern us all. And it poses an ongoing threat to the legitimacy of any subsequent administrations.”

  23. The Old Redneck says:

    Not to get too deep in the weeds on this, but in law there’s a concept called ratification. It applies to punitive damages against a corporation. That is: even if a corporation’s management didn’t do or say something bad enough to support a punitive damage claim against it/them, they can still be liable for them if they “ratify” the punitive-worthy misconduct of an employee. Ratification can taken different forms, but paying bonuses, promoting someone, or retaining them as an employee can be considered ratification.
    This concern about Carlson may have been enough to tip the legal/financial exposure scales for Fox, which still faces suits after the Dominion settlement.

    • Rayne says:

      Thank you. Ratification is the term I needed in describing Fox News’ implicit endorsement of Trump’s incitement and seditionist insurrection along with his mouthpiece Carlson’s hatemongering.

      Shareholder suits against Fox will likely point to damages caused by implicit endorsement up to the point where Fox kicked Carlson to the curb.

      • timbozone says:

        Looking back, after Dobbs was fired in early 2021, doesn’t this leave Fox News management/executive officers/board open to failure to do due diligence in limiting the liability of shareholders with regard to Carlson et al? Seems like the firing of Carlson is like two years too late at minimum…

  24. viget99 says:

    Given the CNN breaking news that Jack Smith wants to subpoena a select number of the 90 (!!!) recordings that Abby Grossberg made, I’m gonna go with door #3 and say that whatever is said by Tucker or someone else on those tapes is what got him fired. Likely because he criminally implicated himself or others at FOX in the J6 case….

    • Rugger_9 says:

      Not so sure about J6 tapes, since SC Smith does already have them (I think). However, Tucker also spoke at a Fox confab Friday night and that might have been when he said the secret word(s) and the duck dropped to poop on his head. Allegedly TC went all fundamentalist and Rupert didn’t like it. Rupert Murdoch would have to bless any firing decision, but I’ve never seen TC be particularly religious in the past on air and Rupert’s deity is money. I’m still saying it’s Russia related, especially after Lavrov complained about the termination at the UN. Anyone have a transcript for Friday night?

      • vigetnovus says:

        I get the impression that Jack Smith may know the contents of them, but needs to subpoena them to present as evidence to the GJ, possibly in furtherance of an indictment or to ask for another subpoena for something else that will further his investigation.

        My bet is he has known about these tapes for a long time but needed to lock in testimony from others first before presenting the evidence to the GJ.

  25. Alan Charbonneau says:

    Ed Krassenstein on Twitter says that per the NYT, “… the Fox News settlement with Dominion, as well as the firing of Tucker Carlson, came about due to Tucker’s private messages discovered at the last minute including ‘highly offensive and crude remarks that went beyond the inflammatory, often racist comments’” made on his show.


    • Rayne says:

      That’s a weak sauce excuse mentioned elsewhere in threads here. If he wrote it he was saying it out loud as well in front of staff, and he had been for a while. The messages are the key here, not the vulgarity — they are worried about the rest of the messages’ content being produced in court on the public record but not having done anything about Carlson.

      Sure hope Abby Grossberg and her attorney Filippatos are able to haul the rest of the crap into the sunlight.

      • Alan Charbonneau says:

        Tucker was scheduled to be called as a witness on the first day of trial, so your comment “they are worried about the rest of the messages’ content being produced in court” is correct.

        Also, it was not “discovered at the last minute”, even the article says “…Fox’s trial lawyers had these messages for months”.

        But I can easily see the worst of Carlson’s crap being reported to senior execs late in the game, perhaps when they were discussing settlement talks, and whatever the content, the execs weren’t happy about it.

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