The excerpt from Michael Wolff’s new book The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty has me a little confused. According to Wolff, Murdoch really likes Tucker Carlson, but Murdoch had to fire Carlson because 1) his family was giving him grief about Carlson’s political extremism, 2) Carlson had delusions of being president of the U.S, and 3) it was part of the price to pay to Dominion for that $787 million legal settlement. Given that the sources are mostly from Fox, how much of that story can anyone believe?
If we take what it is reported at face value, Carlson is a reactionary who wants to return America to the 19th Century. And do I not mean just the glory days of the Gilded Age. Not exactly. Think more like pre-1848 America.
Carlson’s success had become a bigger and bigger headache for Murdoch over the years. On the weekend of April 29, 2022, that headache scaled up dramatically as the New York Times rolled out a three-part series focused on Carlson and his role at Fox News.
Fittingly, the day part one was published, Carlson was fishing at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania. Rolling Rock, founded by members of the Mellon family, those 19th-century industrial and banking aristocrats, with streams stocked with trout and a set of riding stables with all manner of elegant hunting accoutrements, in addition to the usual golf-and-tennis country-club amenities, is a stop on a particular 20th-century White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Establishment tour. How Tucker Carlson came to adopt and identify with this unreconstructed way of life, and with a passionate intensity unusual in places like the Rolling Rock Club, to transform its once-traditional conservative values into a down-market right-wing credo that played so big among Trump supporters on Fox News, was part of what the Times was trying to make sense of in its big story that weekend.
At Rolling Rock, Carlson declared to friends that he wasn’t reading any of it — although he tweeted a smiling picture of himself holding the Times’ front page dominated by his photo. But a three-part story in the Times, every barbed, surly, execratory, high-minded word of it, would be for anyone, no less a media and Washington insider, hard to ignore.
The Times’ series saw Carlson’s programming and ideological strategy as his deftly positioning himself as MAGA forward but at the same time distancing himself from Trump. But much more strategically, and marking his programming breakthrough, he was distancing himself from Fox and its overwhelmingly Irish Catholic right-wing barstool identity, as exemplified by O’Reilly and, now, Hannity.
“You know, I am not antisemitic, and I am not anti-Black; that’s a complete misunderstanding of what I am,” he would explain, this side of the edge of irony. “I am anti-Catholic.”
That was the retro message of the pale face, tousled hair, and prep-school uniform: Wasp. In this, his atavism was a purer kind than that of Fox or Trump. His reached back further, recalling an earlier America. The tumble into a diverse immigrant society began with the Catholics. Yes, take this fight back to the 1920s, when the sides were clear. The great modern mishmash in which anyone who occasionally visited a church was broadly subsumed into being a “Christian,” as though this was an uncomplicated designation, was very much, for Carlson, ewww thinking.
Emphasis is mine.
As a former Catholic, I am not really offended by Carlson’s anti-Catholicism. Frankly, the Catholic Church deserves a metaphorical knee to the groin area, in my humble opinion. However, I am not fan of right wing so called “christians” either. I don’t consider them believers in any of the tenets proposed by Jesus Chrst.
However, I have to chuckle that Carlson wants to return to the days when Catholics knew their place, or were met at the docks with clubs, knives, and guns when Catholics disembarked from ships from Europe. Carlson’s wet dreams of turning back the clock in America are being realized, but only because there is a CATHOLIC MAJORITY among the reactionary justices on the United States Supreme Court. And brother are they delivering for the reactionaries like Carlson!
Anyway, back to Fox and Murdoch. It’s strongly implied that when Rupert Murdoch read about Carlson’s anti-Catholicism, this brought Murdoch up short. It was another in a long line of shifts that Carlson had brought with him to the White People’s Power Hour on Fox. IF you believe Wolff, Murdoch liked Carlson personally and thought he was a — cough — moderate Republican who would push the corporate agenda and not have all that other political extremism that Trump and his lunatics were embracing (in your fuckin’ face racism for one).
By the way, it is said over and over again that Murdoch HATES Trump. Yeah, maybe. But for a guy who hates Trump, Murdoch did a lot of things to help Trump out. That’s why I am not entirely sold on/ that self-serving BS from Rupert Murdoch.
And no, the main reason Murdoch hates Trump isn’t because he is a rampaging, racist ignoramus:
In terms of Trump, it seemed clear: In addition to being an “asshole,” “plainly nuts,” an “idiot,” a “fool” who “couldn’t give a shit,” who had “no plan,” who “just wants the money,” Trump was “a fucking crazy man” and a “loser.” The last was among Murdoch’s worst imprecations. Trump couldn’t win. Here were Murdoch’s true politics: There’s nothing to be gained from a loser. With Trump facing an incumbent president and a Democratic Party united against him, and with a marginalized message and his vast organizational disarray, not to mention certain looming indictments, the end was obvious: “Loser.”
In fact, it’s ALL TRUMP’S FAULT that poor old Fox has to pay out $787 million to Dominion! Well, that’s according to Murdoch. Because Trump sold his followers several lines of shit about the 2020 Election, what could Fox do if it wanted to keep its audience? Murdoch was FORCED to lie to his tv audience!
So here is poor old Murdoch trying to find a way out of his Dominion dilemma. Murdoch is hell bent on not paying out a billion dollars. The financial pain is bad enough, but according to Wolff, Murdoch was apopletic that he not suffer the SHAME of paying the largest defamation suit in American history. So how to keep the payment to less than a billion?
Hey! Fox can make a blood sacrifice to Dominion!
The positions were: Fox’s — or Murdoch’s — continued determination not to go to a billion but with anything under it fair game, and Dominion’s expectation that it had considerable room to go above $500 million with the hope that it could yet break through Fox’s billion-dollar resolve.
There was also a sweetener: putting Hannity on the table. The Fox News host would be fired concurrently with the settlement. Murdoch had always wanted to get rid of Hannity, and perhaps MAGA insider Hannity’s scalp would make Dominion more likely to accept a nine-figure settlement? It was a thing they might have done without this suit, and might do in the future anyway. Still, rolling it into the deal was convenient psychologically and tactically.
You know that Hannity has to LOVE hearing this reported in a book and to the rest of the competition.
But it appears that Dominion wasn’t interested in Hannity’s scalp. No. It just wouldn’t look good on the mantle.
So was there anyone who Dominion would want shit canned over the Big Lie pushed by Fox? Then, as if the clouds parted and a heavenly choir starts to sing, this Carlson vision of his own future came to Murdoch’s attention:
He was also aware that voices in the Murdoch family were relentlessly campaigning to have him fired — and that there was a not-small chance he would be. If that came to pass, Carlson’s transformative, cometlike success would abruptly, and ignominiously, end. That had always been part of the strange alchemy of Fox News. It made you — gave you a singular name: Tucker, Hannity, O’Reilly, Megyn — but somehow did not give you a star’s independent life. Megyn Kelly, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Greta Van Susteren, Paula Zahn, Fox superstars, had tried to go somewhere else and quickly faded away. It was a fate that weighed heavily on Carlson.
His only alternative … might be to run for president. The White House. There it was, absent a note of irony: He could be unemployable but for the presidency. (Sometimes it also seemed that he regarded running for president as a further part of his inevitable martyrdom — as well as a convenient way to get out of his contract.) But if he did run, he knew what he would run on — he had been thinking about that. He would run on foreign policy. A year into the bog of Ukraine, his views had only hardened: The foreign-policy Establishment, followed mindlessly by the entire political Establishment, was risking everything — a functional world order, economic stability, as well as Armageddon — in a conflict that would only result, without the active involvement of NATO troops, in Ukraine’s capitulation. Be realistic! Here is what gripped him: not just that Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a fake and Putin, you better believe, real, but that liberals, and he would include here the Republican center as effective liberals, weren’t even really talking about Ukraine — supporting Ukraine was just some accepted aspect of good manners and public virtue. Well, fuck that — here was a reason to run. He had a message. He was the antiwar candidate.
And this horrified Murdoch, according to Wolff. Murdoch already had to deal with the unfit Trump as president, and remember, Murdoch hates Trump! Just in case you have forgotten that by now! Everyone had laughed at the prospect of a man with zero political experience becoming president, but Trump proved it could happen.
So here was the likable Carlson with his massive megalomania thinking he could run for president, and there was Dominion wanting more money and a better scalp from Fox. And Murdoch is Murdoch. The bottom line is everything, so a “gentleman’s agreement” was made with Dominion. Within a week of the announced money payment, Carlson would walk a very short plank.
Actually, the shithead was thrown violently overboard.
Anyway, there is the lastest version of how and why Murdoch fired Tucker Carlson.