We don’t have many details yet beyond a clipt press release from Fox and the note that the departure is effective immediately. There were a number of fall-out scenarios I envisioned after Fox’s settlement with Dominion. But this wasn’t in any of them.
There’s a key reason why.
One of the more interesting pieces of commentary I saw last week was from some conservative outlet noting that Fox didn’t have any real reason or need to can any of its top talent. If you looked at the material Dominion had assembled, the most damning stuff was about Bartiromo, Pirro, Dobbs. Very much the B Team. As odious as he may be, Carlson is quite good at the “just asking questions” shtick.
I saw some people asking last week whether Fox was going to have to moderate or trim their sails after the Dominion settlement. First, Fox simply can’t do that. You can’t stop in the middle of the rodeo and ask the bronco to let you off. This is Fox’s business. They can’t be CNN lite. They can’t even be the Fox of ten years ago. More important, they don’t need to. It’s not like Fox just started lying and defaming people in 2020. They’ve been doing that for a generation. But politicians aren’t in a position to sue you. “BLM” or “Antifa” can’t sue you, because they’re not a thing.
The Big Lie and the Dominion and Smartmatic lawsuits represented a particular convergence of events. It involved two private corporations with very definable damages which were existential for the companies in question. They were more than happy to sue and had the resources to do so. The claims were absurd on their face. They were specific and actionable. Fox can continue to be Fox as long as they stick to their longstanding policy of defaming and lying about people who can’t sue.
It was Trump who got them off track. He was calling the shots in the winter of 2020. Fox knew better — as the most damning emails made clear — but they felt squeezed between Trump and the upstart networks of OAN and Newsmax.
As I’ve been writing this post the only plausible theory I’ve seen is that Carlson’s departure is somehow tied to Ray Epps’ demand for an apology from Carlson over the litany of crazy stories about him boosted on Fox. It’s the only broadly plausible theory I’ve seen. But it still seems like a stretch on numerous fronts. Presumably we’ll know more soon enough.