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Fox News and Tucker Carlson have parted ways, the network announced

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yesterday, Fox News delivered some news about Fox News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS FAULKNER: Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have mutually agreed to part ways.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

That's the way the network put it anyway. Carlson's program averaged more than 3 million viewers each night. He told those viewers that woke elites were out to get them. He promoted conspiracy theories about the January 6 attack, and he even told white voters that immigrants were out to replace them.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

TUCKER CARLSON: We are not animals. We are Americans.

It is definitely not about Black lives.

Mobs of violent cretins have burned our cities, defaced our monuments.

American citizen, don your obedience mask, get your shot, pay your taxes and shut up.

INSKEEP: Tucker Carlson made it to primetime after an earlier big flameout. Bill O'Reilly lost his job amid harassment allegations in 2016. Carlson was the replacement, and Fox stood by him through years of criticism. So why let him go now?

MARTÍNEZ: Let's ask NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, Fox says that it and Carlson mutually parted ways. Does your reporting back up that description?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: No, it doesn't. I've talked to three people with knowledge of what's gone on. And though the specifics have not been released, it seems it's related to the Dominion Voting Systems defamation suit that was settled just a week ago today - not because of the core allegations against Fox of defaming the election tech company over the question of election fraud in 2020, but because of what's called discovery - the evidence that surfaced. Tucker Carlson is the focus of a separate but related lawsuit from a former producer who alleged his workplace was defined by sexism and bigotry. And it appears that exchanges captured by Fox News in reviewing evidence for this case that still hasn't seen the light of day fully really is related to those allegations - that is, it echoes those concerns raised by the former producer, Abby Grossberg. Some of that evidence has already made it to light, and it's not pretty.

MARTÍNEZ: About a minute ago, we played some of Tucker Carlson. Steve also mentioned some of the things that he railed on in his show. What do you see as Carlson's legacy at Fox?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, Carlson was not a straight, down-the-line, pro-former-President-Trump figure, but he was sort of a vicious attacker of any critic of the former president. And having failed at shows at PBS and MSNBC and CNN, he really became a close student of the Fox viewer. And I've got to say that he provided one of the purest forms of extremism we've seen on cable news - bigotry and racism alleged repeatedly by what he presented, but also extreme conspiracy theories that are corrosive, I think, to the body public. You have to say it's an extremist view that he set out night after night.

MARTÍNEZ: Fox News says it's going to have different people rotate into that 8 p.m. slot, at least for now. But is there anyone in the pipeline for them that could replace Tucker Carlson?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, let me say this with the caveat that Carlson has a distinctive role in conservatism and even in the Republican Party - seen potentially not only as a kingmaker, but even had been touted as a possible candidate himself for the highest office. But Carlson himself showed, and others have shown, that they can step into slots before. I think Jesse Watters less intellectually can serve up a lot of the same red meat, strike the same tones and appeal to viewers.

MARTÍNEZ: An hour after the announcement on Carlson, Don Lemon was let go from CNN. What do you think these two departures mean about maybe how cable news may try to reinvent itself somehow?

FOLKENFLIK: Both networks are asserting, I think, that the channel itself, Fox and CNN, are more important than their stars and that they feel they can retain viewers no matter who they put in those seats.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's David Folkenflik, thanks a lot.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.