By BERRY CRAIG
Bill Straub agrees that Tucker Carlson’s firing from Fox News was overdue.
“But he’s not going to be unemployed for long,” said the Kentucky journalism Hall of Famer. “He’s going to get a gig somewhere. He’ll be raking in the dough, and he’ll be lying just as he lied before.”
It’s unclear why Fox abruptly sacked its superstar. Business Insider cited seven theories ranging “from accusations of sexism and antisemitism to his divisive stance on the Ukraine war.” Media Matters for America is advancing 11 theories why Fox chose to cut ties so quickly with Carlson.
No matter the reason, Media Matters is happy to see Carlson go. “Carlson’s departure is great news for America,” wrote MM’s Matt Gertz.
“He was the country’s foremost purveyor of white supremacist talking points, pushing the conspiracy theories that inspired massacres from El Paso, Texas, to Buffalo, New York. He was the nation’s most prominent anti-vaxxer, running a brutally effective campaign against public efforts to vaccinate Americans against COVID-19. And his lies and deceptions following the January 6 insurrection helped foil the potential for a consensus against the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol. He worked to radicalize the Republican Party in the direction of its most dangerous, authoritarian elements.”
Even so, Straub, the Northern Kentucky Tribune’s Washington columnist, doubts Carlson’s exile means a course correction is coming at Fox News, the leader of the uber-right media pack. “It’s still going to be the same garbage in, garbage out.”
He pointed out that the rest of the lineup is intact, at least for now. “[Sean] Hannity and the other folks are still there,” said Straub, who was the Kentucky Post’s Frankfort Bureau chief and a White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.
Like their idol Donald Trump, the Fox pundits are partial to the Big Lie theory of political propaganda, which first appeared in Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler’s autobiography. He posited that if you tell a lie big enough, and keep telling it, people will come to believe it.
In the past, said Straub, politicians and pundits of any persuasion who blatantly lied would “hang themselves, but that’s not the case anymore. In fact, it seems that the more outrageous you get, the more adherents you get.”
Straub, who lives in Silver Spring, Md., said before Carlson became “crazy conservative” that “he was a fairly respected writer. He was always conservative; he just drank the Kool-Aid. He saw that by going crazy he’d get the big numbers. He has paid the price, but I don’t think he’ll be paying it for very long.”
Fox recently paid a stiff price — a cool $787.5 million — to settle out of court a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s lies about the company that were connected to the 2020 presidential election.
But will Fox also pay dearly in viewers for canning its most popular host? “Every night [last] week it has filled Carlson’s slot with Brian Kilmeade, an eager substitute who, in his regular role on the Fox and Friends morning show, serves as an excitable, unthreatening everyman,” Adam Gabbatt wrote in The Guardian. “Every night viewers have given an unforgiving verdict on Kilmeade’s efforts: by turning off in droves.”
Added Gabbatt: “For some people, it was time to get started on switching channels. [Last] Monday the audience for Kilmeade, a less angry, less charismatic, apparently less race-obsessed host, was 47% of the number Carlson had attracted a week earlier, according to the Los Angeles Times.” Many are jumping ship to Newsmax, a Fox competitor in the hard-right media echo chamber.
Newsmax is “seeing record ratings,” according to Gabbatt.
Fox was launched in 1996, catching the same breeze that had been blowing the Republican Party ever-rightward since the rise of Goldwaterism in the 1960s. Trump is helming the GOP, full speed ahead, toward the farthest shores of U.S. conservatism. Critics, including some old-guard Republicans, have labeled the long-gone party of “Lincoln and Liberty” a “white nationalist,” “Christian nationalist,” “Christo-fascist” and flat out “fascist” Trump cult.
But Straub pointed out that 74 million Americans voted to reelect Trump in 2020. If the polls are right, he’s a shoo-in for the Republican presidential nomination next year.
Evidence suggests that few MAGAs have abandoned Trumpism, “no matter how terrible it might be.”
Carlson himself had a slew of followers, though he “presented a unique danger that was unlike anything else we’ve seen in American cable news history,” according to MSNBC host Joy Reid, who nicknamed him “Tuckums.”
Reid said Carlson “almost exclusively” used “his one-hour slot to peddle the worst of the worst conspiracies and authoritarian propaganda to millions of Americans – to the point where one of the most prominent people who came to Tucker’s defense after his firing was — I kid you not — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.”
And, just as Straub predicted, Carlson already has at least one job offer – from Russian state television.