A new court document leak from the lawsuit between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems sheds new light on the network’s decision to ‘move on’ from Donald Trump.
The document leak comes amidst a significant shakeup to the talent aired on the network. Tucker Carlson, the most-watched host on primetime cable news, was pushed out of his position as host of the flagship show on the network in the 8 P.M. slot.
While Fox News did not provide immediate explanation about why the network decided to part ways with its top primetime host Tucker Carlson, reports began to surface that Rupert Murdoch was behind the decision.
“Carlson’s exit is related to the discrimination lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg, the producer fired by the network last month,” the L.A. Times earlier reported.
“Murdoch is also said to be concerned over Carlson’s coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in which the host has promoted the conspiracy theory that it was provoked by government agents,” the report added.
In the background, however, is a looming presence that has become quite influential with the Fox News’ top brass: Former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
According to a recently leaked court document from Dominion Voting System’s lawsuit against Fox News, Ryan has been an influential force behind the network’s decision to move on from Donald Trump.
“As a Board Member, Ryan believed that the period immediately following the 2020 Presidential Election ‘was a pretty important inflection point, not just for the company Fox, but for the country and for the conservative movement itself,’ and shared this ‘view as a fiduciary’ with Rupert and Lachlan,” the document says, citing an exhibit.
“Ryan told Rupert and Lachlan ‘that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories’,” the document added.
The court filing adds that Paul Ryan was deeply involved in discussions of how to cover the post-2020 election fallout.
“On December 6 , 2020, Paul Ryan texted Rupert and Lachlan, telling them, we are entering a truly bizarre phase of this where [Trump] has actually convinced himself of this farce and will do more bizarre things to delegitimize the election,” the legal document states. “I see this as a key inflection point for Fox, where the right thing and the smart business thing to do line up nicely.”
Thus, we can see the obvious implication that as an “inflection point” for Fox News, the “smart business thing” would be to move on from Donald Trump. This was reinforced with more explicit statements.
“Paul Ryan also continued to discuss strategic direction with the Murdochs during this timeframe,” the court document adds. “Ryan told Dias about his own conversation with Rupert and Lachlan, reporting he told them that this is a huge inflection point to keep Trump down and move on for the future of the conservative movement. Ryan added: Both Rupert and Lachlan agree fully. ‘The key is to execute our collective will.’ Ryan agreed it was his job as a Board member to weigh in because it was a strategic decision about what to do. Ryan was ‘hopeful that the events of January 6 were so shocking that it would help the conservative movement and Fox News move on
from Donald Trump’.”
While a Carlson’s ouster was not part of the $787.5-million settlement Fox News agreed to pay to Dominion Voting Systems, according to a representative for Dominion, the backdrop of the host’s coverage of the 2020 election almost certainly weighed heavily on the decision to part ways with Tucker Carlson. But it may have been Carlson’s exploration of the federal government’s role of the events of January 6 that made the top brass the most squeamish.
As the Daily Beast reported on Monday night, the Fox News bloodletting came at the behest of the Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott.
“In Carlson’s case, it was Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott who made the call on Friday night to can him and his show, Confider has learned, thanks largely (and surprisingly) in part to vulgar comments he made about Sidney Powell, the right-wing lawyer behind many of the bonkers 2020 election lies pushed on Fox’s airwaves,” the report said.
“Tucker was already pissing off Fox management between his conspiracy-laden coverage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, including the repeated and baseless targeting of Trump supporter Ray Epps as being an FBI agent who instigated the insurrection; a looming lawsuit from his former producer Abby Grossberg alleging a sexist work environment; and his disparaging remarks about Fox brass in documents made public,” the report added.
Dan Bongino, a Fox News contributor, popular guest, and host of the show “Unfiltered,” was also unable to come to terms with Fox News last week on renewing his contract.
At least one prominent media observer predicts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro will be fired from Fox News as Rupert Murdoch moves to be less “vulnerable” following the network’s nearly $800 million defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. Per the Radar online report last week, Fox News critic Dylan Byers predicted both Bartiromo and Pirro will be axed from the network.
Fox News letting go of Tucker Carlson and Dan Bongino, as two of the strongest conservative voices on Fox News, surely signals a pivot away from the pro-Trump base, although longtime veterans Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham remain. It bears watching if Fox News cuts ties with more pro-Trump voices ahead of its 2024 election coverage.
In any event, Fox News with left with a gaping void in its primetime coverage, as it has parted ways with a prominent host willing to stand up to both the Republican establishment and the Democratic Party. His voice will surely be missed on the network, but his loyal following is highly interested to see what Tucker Carlson does next.
Follow Kyle Becker on Twitter @kylenabecker.