Fox News said Monday it was parting ways with hot-headed host Tucker Carlson, the network’s most popular prime-time anchor and a leading voice in the modern conservative movement known for his conspiratorial rhetoric and anti-culture provocations.
The network announced the startling news days after it agreed to pay nearly $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems to avert a high-level defamation lawsuit that cast a shadow over the network’s future.
“FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,” the company said in a brief press release. “Mr. Carlson’s last program was Friday April 21.”
Carlson’s final broadcast contained no indication that he was preparing to leave the network. “We’ll be back on Monday,” he said cheerfully at the end of Friday’s episode.
Fox News didn’t specify why Carlson is leaving, and a spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email from NBC News asking for more information about his abrupt departure.
The network’s statement included no comment from Carlson. The network will rely on a rotation of intermediate hosts until it designates a permanent anchor for the 8:00 PM ET block.
“Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade hosted Monday at 8 p.m. and opened the show with a brief statement aimed at the elephant in the room: “As you’ve probably heard, Fox News and Tucker Carlson agreed to separate. I wish Tucker all the best.”
“I’m a good friend of Tucker’s and always will be,” Kilmeade added. “But now it’s time for Fox News Tonight, so let’s get started.”
A cornerstone of the Fox News series since 2016, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” has been one of the most-watched shows on American cable news, surpassing its rivals at CNN and MSNBC.
Carlson, 53, has established himself as one of the most influential figures in a conservative political coalition reshaped by former President Donald Trump. He regularly stirred controversy for inflammatory statements about race, immigration, LGBTQ rights, and other issues.
Carlson faced severe criticism last year when extremism experts linked his off-air remarks to the “grand surrogate” views of white nationalists espoused by a gunman who killed 10 people in Buffalo, New York .
He also drew intense scrutiny for spreading political misinformation, promoting conspiracy theories about the results of the 2020 presidential election, minimizing the severity of the Jan. 6 riots in the US Capitol, and attacking journalists elsewhere.
Ahead of the Dominion trial, Carlson’s internal communications were released and showed that he criticized Trump and acknowledged that allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election were unfounded.
“I hate him passionately,” Carlson said in a Jan. 4, 2021 text message to an unidentified person, according to exhibits that were unsealed before the Dominion trial was scheduled to begin. (Fox and Dominion settled the lawsuit for $787.5 million last Tuesday, just as opening statements were due to begin. Dominion declined to comment Monday.)
But Carlson later backed down and recently dedicated an entire episode of his show to an interview with Trump, who is again seeking the Republican nomination for president.
The stock price of Fox Corp., Fox News’ parent company, fell sharply after news of Carlson’s departure, falling more than 4%.
Fox News is facing further lawsuits related to statements by moderators made after the 2020 election. The network is also being sued by Abby Grossberg, a former Carlson producer who claims the company is a hotbed of discrimination and misogyny.
Grossberg, who once worked as the head of booking on Carlson’s show, alleged in a lawsuit that the host “created a work environment that subjugates women based on vile sexist stereotypes, typifies religious minorities and belittles their traditions, and shows little to no consideration.” has taken for mental health.”
Fox has denied Grossberg’s claims, and a spokeswoman for the network recently said, “We will continue to vigorously defend Fox against Ms. Grossberg’s baseless legal claims, which are riddled with false allegations against Fox and our employees.”
Grossberg’s attorney, Gerry Filippatos, said Monday that they discussed possible settlement talks with a third-party agent over the weekend and that those talks ended “barren” on Monday.
An outside attorney was investigating Grossberg’s allegations, Filippatos said, and Fox News told Grossberg’s attorneys after her release that their allegations were “baseless.”
The television news industry was rocked again on Monday when CNN host Don Lemon took to Twitter to say he had quit the network after 17 years there. Lemon recently provoked backlash for comments about the age of GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley.
In addition to hosting a popular prime-time show, Carlson has been a mainstay on the company’s burgeoning streaming platform, Fox Nation, after signing a new deal with the company in 2021. “Tucker Carlson Originals,” a documentary series, recently profiled people who eat bugs.
Carlson took over the 8 p.m. ET timeslot following the departure of Bill O’Reilly, who left the network in 2017 amid a spate of sexual harassment allegations. O’Reilly’s attorney at the time denied any wrongdoing.
Earlier in his career, Carlson worked at CNN and MSNBC. He also co-founded the conservative commentary website The Daily Caller and wrote articles for various magazines including Esquire and The Atlantic.