Tucker Carlson, the provocative conservative prime-time host who helped build Fox News into a ratings juggernaut, has been forced out of the network.
Fox News announced the stunning departure of its top-rated host Monday with no explanation. His last show was Friday.
“Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,” the network said in a statement. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.”
A Fox News representative had no other details on Carlson’s exit and declined to comment.
People familiar with the situation who were not authorized to comment publicly said the decision to fire Carlson came straight from Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, with input from board members and other executives at Fox Corp.
Murdoch elevated Carlson from contributor to daily host status in 2016. He moved into prime time in 2017 following the ouster of Bill O’Reilly, the successful longtime host who left over sexual harassment allegations.
Carlson’s exit is related to the discrimination lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg, the producer fired by the network last month, the sources said. Carlson’s senior executive producer Justin Wells has also been terminated, according to insiders.
Grossberg was moved off of “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo” and onto “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where she alleged she was bullied and subjected to antisemitic comments, according to a lawsuit in New York.
In deposition testimony, the former Fox News producer also said she was coerced by company lawyers to give misleading answers in the Dominion defamation case against the network. Fox News previously denied the claim and said she was terminated for disclosing privileged company information.
In a statement, attorneys for Grossberg suggested her suit was a key factor in Carlson’s exit.
“Tucker Carlson’s departure from Fox News is, in part, an admission of the systemic lying, bullying, and conspiracy-mongering claimed by our client, former top producer, Abby Grossberg,” said Tanvir Rahman, one of Ms. Grossberg’s attorneys. “Mr. Carlson and his subordinates remain individual defendants in the (Southern District of New York) case and we look forward to taking their depositions under oath in the very near term,”
Murdoch also was said to be concerned over Carlson’s coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in which the host has promoted the conspiracy theory that it was provoked by government agents.
Carlson has called Ray Epps — a Texas man who participated in the storming of the Capitol but did not enter the building — an FBI plant, without presenting any evidence.
Epps was interviewed Sunday on “60 Minutes” and said he has been subjected to death threats as a result of Carlson’s statements about him. The FBI told “60 Minutes” that Epps has never worked for the agency.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sparked a backlash among Democrats and others when he granted exclusive access to thousands of hours of surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to Carlson.
Carlson’s ouster was not part of the $787.5-million settlement Fox News agreed to pay to Dominion Voting Systems last week, according to a representative for Dominion.
However, some of the comments that Carlson had made about Fox News management in communications that turned up in the discovery process for the case may have also played a role in his demise.
Dominion accused Fox of knowingly making false claims related to the 2020 election.
Carlson was by far the most popular individual host on Fox News, averaging more than 3 million viewers a night.
But he also brought controversy to the network on a regular basis with his provocative views on immigration and race, which alienated advertisers.
Starting Monday, Carlson’s 8 p.m. Eastern time slot will be filled by rotating Fox News personalities until a new host is named, the company said.
Carlson’s departure will test the Fox News formula that has enabled the most-watched cable network to sustain its popularity even when it loses big name talent. Fox News has remained a dominant leader, ahead of CNN and MSNBC by a wide margin, despite various personnel changes over the year.
O’Reilly had the highest ratings of any Fox News personality when he exited in 2017.
Carlson never reached the same ratings heights when he replaced the star, but he remained appointment viewing. “The Five,” a roundtable program that airs at 5 p.m. Eastern, now has the largest audience on cable news, according to Nielsen data.
The chatter inside Fox News is that 7 p.m. Eastern host Jesse Watters could slide into Carlson’s hours, while guest hosts take over Watters’ hour.
Carlson, who did not respond to a request for comment, has now been fired by all three cable networks, having been pushed out from his previous stints at CNN and MSNBC.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.