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Election skeptics may follow Tucker Carlson out of Fox News

Supporters at a Herschel Walker election night watch party last year watching former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Brynn Anderson
/
AP
Supporters at a Herschel Walker election night watch party last year watching former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Updated April 26, 2023 at 10:05 AM ET

During his tenure at Fox News, Tucker Carlson was known for pushing far right fringe views onto a mainstream conservative audience, in his top-rated prime-time show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. Fox deciding to part ways with one of the biggest stars in cable news history leaves the network in a "particularly precarious place" with the Fox audience.

That's according to political historian Nicole Hemmer, a director of the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Center for the Study of the Presidency at Vanderbilt University. She tells Morning Edition that Carlson's exit may magnify a "level of distrust" between Fox News and audience members who are skeptical of the network's call of the 2020 presidential election.

The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Interview highlights

On whether Carlson's rhetoric became too extreme for Fox

Carlson's rhetoric has been one of the most important drivers of audience to Fox News. He has been the most popular show on Fox and back to the most watched show in cable news history since 2020. And that makes him pretty powerful. And it makes his messaging pretty important to the direction that Fox News has been going over the past six or seven years. So his rhetoric maybe got him in trouble. But it's actually been one of the most defining features, not just of his show, but of Fox News during the Trump era.

On the Fox News relationship with its audience

Fox News is in a particularly precarious place with its audience since the 2020 election, when they called the election for Joe Biden. There was a real rush of the audience away to other sources like Newsmax. Tucker Carlson was really instrumental in bringing that audience back. But there's a level of distrust between parts of the Fox audience and Fox News. And this is just another piece of evidence for that part of the audience that perhaps Fox News isn't entirely on their side.

On the media landscape and Fox's need to "shore up" Carlson viewership

You would anticipate they might put someone in that timeslot who tries to keep Carlson's audience attached to Fox News. But if it was his rhetoric that got him in trouble, that really does wedge Fox when they're trying to figure out, "how do we reach out to this Trump base, especially in advance of the 2024 election."

On support for journalism and journalists at Fox News

I think they've lost quite a lot of credibility with other news organizations. You know, back in 2009 when the Obama administration sort of went to war with Fox, it was other journalists who defended the network. I don't think that there's that same kind of relationship between Fox News and other outlets these days. So there may be people at Fox who present themselves as journalists. I'm not sure that other outlets have their back anymore.

Ziad Buchh produced the audio version of this interview. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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