For the first time I’ve read an article that presents at least the outlines of a convincing account of why Fox fired Tucker Carlson. The Times account, published an hour ago, isn’t dramatically different from other accounts we’ve seen over the last three days, at least not at first glance. So it may seem odd that I’m putting it in a different category. But on my read at least it provides a degree of specificity about the precise chain of events and who did what, when, that is different from all the earlier stories.
Earlier articles have noted that there might be more damaging material in messages Carlson and other Fox notables sent that remained redacted in the lead up to the trial. The gist of the Times article is that the Fox board and key executives at the company weren’t aware until two days before trial just what was in those redacted Carlson messages. Their contents were apparently so explosive that they played a key role not only in Carlson’s termination but in pushing Fox to settle the case on the first day of the trial.
They needed to end the trial to keep those toxic messages under wraps.
When considering just what could have been so bad, consider that Carlson repeatedly insulted Donald Trump (not great for a Fox audience) and repeatedly called Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and an unnamed Fox executive the c-word. So it’s got to be pretty bad. Offensive remarks about women were manageable. This wasn’t. The Times says it hasn’t seen the actual messages but seems to leave open the possibility that they were briefed on their gist. The key part of their summary is that the messages “showed [Carlson] making highly offensive and crude remarks that went beyond the inflammatory, often racist comments of his prime-time show and anything disclosed in the lead-up to the trial.”
This is tea leaf reading. Perhaps it’s nothing. But it seems notable to me that they seem to place particular focus on racist comments.
The Times goes on to say: “One person briefed on the contents of the redacted material said one of the messages was particularly offensive, adding to the concern at the top of the company.”
Whatever the messages said, the board first considered bringing in an outside law firm to investigate Carlson before finally deciding they had seen enough and had to fire him. The article isn’t totally clear on this point but it seems the Murdochs may have made the final call that Carlson had to go.
Mixed through the article is the fear that the messages could still see the light of day either through media lawsuits asking the Delaware judge to remove the redactions, in the impending Smartmatic trial or in one of the various other lawsuits the company faces. Beyond that, they seem to fear there’s more out there beyond the Dominion discovery materials. It sounds like they’re probably right.