Fox News star host Tucker Carlson is leaving the influential conservative TV network, it was announced Monday, in a surprise move days after the outlet was forced to pay a huge financial settlement to end a defamation case.
Carlson was the best-known personality on Fox’s presenting roster, hosting a popular prime-time evening show that drew a fiercely loyal audience among right-wing viewers. He had been with the network since 2009 and was a key figure in Republican politics, often interviewing Donald Trump.
However, Carlson was also widely criticized for his abrasive style and alleged lack of journalistic rigor. He frequently railed against liberal trends in modern America on his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” appealing to viewers’ outrage and propelling the show to the heights of cable television.
The $787.5 million defamation settlement last week meant that neither Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch nor hosts such as Carlson would have to testify in what was expected to be an explosive trial. The payout was to Dominion, a voting technology company that sued the broadcaster for airing false claims that its machines were used to steal the 2020 presidential election from Trump.
In leaked communications, Carlson said he couldn’t wait until he could “ignore Trump most nights,” adding, “I hate him passionately.” Despite the criticism Carlson engendered, Fox News had previously backed him at all costs as he generated nationwide controversy, media attention, viewers and advertising revenue.
The sudden departure of Carlson shocked Washington and Wall Street, with Fox News‘ share price falling nearly four percent. Carlson himself has long attracted reports that he would seek to enter politics, but he previously dismissed suggestions he had presidential ambitions, saying “I’m a talk show host; I enjoy it.”
It remains unclear what Carlson’s next move will be and whether he will continue to have a major presence in conservative media and politics.