Editor's note: An earlier version of this story and the headline incorrectly suggested that Tucker Carlson described Fox CEO Suzanne Scott as a "c-word." The name of the Fox executive he allegedly described this way has not been identified.
The Wall Street Journal is out with its own anonymously-sourced report on why Tucker Carlson found himself ejected from Fox News on Monday, and because the Journal is itself another big chunk of the Murdoch family empire, we can imagine that the "people familiar with the matter" they're using as the basis for their story are likely people named Murdoch and/or people who have the private phone numbers of people named Murdoch.
The short version of the Journal report is that Tucker was finally cut loose because—and brace yourself for this shocking new news—Tucker Carlson was a notorious asshole, nobody in the Fox offices could stand him, and the Fox legal review of Carlson's private communications necessitated by the Dominion lawsuit turned up so much toxic behavior that not even pseudo-friend Lachlan Murdoch could stomach keeping him on.
The slightly longer version is that Tucker let his enormous frat boy head get too big for his preppy conservative britches, and that's allegedly one of the few things you can do inside the Rupert Murdoch empire that will get the personal peeved attention of ol' Rupe himself. The Murdoch family was evidently fine with Tucker's frequent forays into white supremacist conspiracies, pandemic denialism, gaslighting about Jan. 6 violence and the rest of it. It's when Tucker started thinking he was important to Fox that the Murdochs gave him the heave-ho.
"The private messages in which Mr. Carlson showed disregard for management and colleagues were a major factor" in the Murdochs’ decision to fire him, reports the Journal. Perhaps worse, "Some of the people pointed to concerns that the populist firebrand had come to believe himself bigger than the network—a cardinal sin in Fox Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch’s empire—and was increasingly operating as his own island." He admits he rarely even went to Fox Corp. headquarters anymore. According to the Journal, Carlson told a crowd at the Heritage Foundation last week he “hadn’t been in an elevator for three years.”
Ah. So he was an asshole, then. Being an asshole, however, is the primary requirement for all Fox News talking heads; there's not a person among them who doesn't give off the "mean drunk working off a hangover" vibe. How bad could Tucker really be?
In recent years, battles between Mr. Carlson and Fox management got so bad that former Trump aide Raj Shah was appointed to be his internal advocate and an intermediary between Mr. Carlson and Fox’s communications department, according to people familiar with the arrangement and filings in the Dominion case.
Oooh, that's pretty bad. When you're such an enormous asshole that your company has to assign a personal asshole wrangler to act as go-between between you and your fellow employees—and the person chosen for the job got it because of his experience in managing Supreme Asshole Donald Golfboy, of all people—things are already unsalvageable. The Murdochs put up with it, however. Until they didn't, and for all of the Journal's sources, the timing on that change of heart is still a bit sketchy.
Mr. Carlson’s fall from grace in the eyes of the Murdochs was swift. Just a few weeks ago, Rupert Murdoch invited Mr. Carlson to his Bel Air, Calif., home to dine with his then-fiancée, Ann Lesley Smith, according to people familiar with the gathering.
That must have been the worst dinner party in history, because Murdoch dumped his fiancee and top network host shortly afterward. This is the stuff that some truly fabulous conspiracy theories could be crafted from. There's a thinly sourced Vanity Fair article that claims Murdoch was disturbed when his ex-fiancee called Tucker Carlson "a messenger from God," and was further stunned when his now ex-fiancee held an impromptu Bible reading at the Tucker Carlson dinner party. If you believe that interpretation, it's possible Rupert Murdoch ditched them both because he was worried they were about to start some new Tucker-helmed religious cult. Which is, to be honest, pretty plausible.
The Journal may have better sources here than anyone else, but they don't have access to the Tucker Carlson text messages that seem to have convinced each of Fox News' top leaders that Tucker was now too great a liability to ignore. It's difficult to imagine that a message from Tucker referring to a top Fox “senior executive” as a "c---" would be the last straw, given that Fox News was already keenly aware of Carlson's misogynic and absolutely toxic interactions with other Fox employees. We don't know, however, just how many similar messages Fox News lawyers are now aware of, having combed through Tucker's internal messages in response to the Dominion suit.
The most likely scenario seems to be that once Tucker's numerous derogatory internal messages were brought to the attention of Fox News lawyers and executives, it became untenable for those executives to claim they weren't aware of Carlson's inappropriate workplace behavior. A lawsuit by former show producer Abby Grossberg accuses Carlson and his subordinates of numerous misogynistic comments and behaviors beyond the pale in any workplace, even one as muck-filled as the Fox News offices, and an internal search of Carlson’s messages immediately turned up messages that would strongly support Grossberg’s claims.
Keeping Tucker Carlson on the payroll despite Fox's own legal team now having an entire folder of inappropriate and likely illegal intracompany messages would serve as absolute proof that Fox News covered for Tucker's behavior, and that would expose the company to countless additional labor lawsuits. It would be something very close to a company-wide admission of guilt.
It was one thing when Tucker Carlson's inability to not be an asshole toward everyone else in the company was "only" an inconvenience for everyone around him, but when presented with iron-clad documentation of Tucker dishing out that workplace abuse, it doesn't matter if Carlson was wandering onto the Murdoch mansion lawn and pooping out a 20-pound solid gold egg every morning. It became lawyerin' time, and that goose was going to get cooked.
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