Tucker Carlson Getting Last Laugh: This Is Exactly Why Fox News Couldn't Afford to Lose Him


They’re probably tired of hearing Tucker Carlson’s name in the executive suites of Fox News.

The jettisoning of Fox’s most popular commentator has made the network the Bud Light of television.

Not only did Fox’s ratings collapse in the critical 8 p.m. Eastern time slot they threw Carlson out of, but overall ratings for Fox are dropping.

And Fox’s stock price is taking a hit, too.

What Rasmussen discovered last week, however, really gives Carlson a reason to let out that last laugh. According to polling conducted April 25-27, 2023, Carlson is more positively rated than Fox News itself by a margin of seven percentage points (59 percent for Carlson versus 52 percent for Fox News). Forget a last laugh. Those numbers justify a last roar.

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There’s a lot of speculation about why Fox and Carlson decided to “part ways,” as Fox officially put it.

It’s not because he’s had the laughable tag of Russian asset hung upon him. It may or may not have been related to Fox’s settlement with Dominion Voting Systems or his private disparaging of Fox management, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Rather, it may be because Fox thought their star host was just another commodity, like Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly or Glenn Beck. After their departures, Fox was just fine.

Carlson’s criticism of management was becoming a pain, so Fox thought they could harmlessly dump him, too, according to historian, commentator, professor, author, and California farmer Victor Davis Hanson.

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This time it’s different, Hanson said in a video interview with the U.K’s Telegraph, Fox has created a perhaps interminable problem. And it looks like Tucker Carlson is getting the last laugh.

Carlson backed away from the controversy surrounding Dominion, Hanson said; rather, burdened with the whole Dominion lawsuit and irritated with Carlson’s Fox-directed criticism, the network’s controlling Murdoch family made an “emotional” decision.

“In the heat of passion over the weekend, they fired him,” he said. “And, I think, before they fired him they thought: Fox is bigger than any one anchor.

“We fired Bill O’Reilly and guess what, Tucker showed up, and he has the same size audience — or bigger.

“And then we let Megyn Kelly go to NBC, and we brought in Laura Ingraham,” Hanson continued. “And we stopped that bleeding.”

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Hanson indicated that Fox believed its viewership was based on the brand, not the individual. “I don’t think they understand that it’s not quite like that,” he said. “It’s cumulative. It’s like a cut, a cut, a cut, that each one magnifies the prior one.

“So when you get rid of Bill O’Reilly, and you get rid of Megyn Kelly, and you call … Arizona too early, and you go up and down, and Newsmax and competitors creep in and grab your audience.

“[Fox has lost] over $800 million in stock. Newsmax has doubled its audience. That 8:00 to 9:00 key Eastern time slot has lost about a million viewers like that,” Hanson said, snapping his fingers.

He conceded that Carlson’s replacement, Brian Kilmeade, “is a pretty good newscaster,” yet Fox would be hard pressed to find someone “funny and affable and knowledgeable” like Carlson.

More importantly, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is on the board of Fox and of News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal, Hanson said. “So it is the epitome of doctrinaire conservatism.”

However, doctrinaire conservatism, as represented by individuals like Mitt Romney, “is not what conservatism is now,” according to Hanson. “And so, they needed Tucker Carlson to appeal to the new Republican Party.”

Hanson said Carlson was especially gifted since he came from a wealthy, elite background but was able to relate to and capture for Fox a populist audience somewhat similar to O’Reilly with his tabloid journalism background embedded in the “earthiness of the news.”

“Tucker was able to stop the hemorrhaging [to] One America News or Newsmax or all the other right rivals … Why go to those guys when you have somebody who’s more responsible and learned, but still can appeal in the same topics?

“And so, I don’t know where they get that [replacement] person,” Hanson said. “And I think in the immediate week it shows.”

It’s possible Carlson was the plug preventing the inevitable sinking of cable news. Hanson noted that commentators like Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro, and Megyn Kelly are engaged primarily in online streaming and have higher reach and profit than they would on traditional cable television.

There is ongoing speculation that Carlson may be joining individuals like that in his own streaming service, Hanson said, and could make more than the $20 million per year he may continue to reportedly make on his ongoing two-year contract with Fox.

Given fragmentation of media, “That wasn’t true 20 years ago, 10 — it wasn’t true five years ago,” he said.

Rather than become fearful following Carlson’s firing, alternative media probably will become bolder in going after the audience orphaned from Fox, according to Hanson.

Recent pictures of Carlson following his Fox departure show him joking and smiling. Freedom from Fox constraints, opportunities for more money and perhaps influence — it’s no wonder why it looks like Carlson is having the last laugh.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.