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Tucker Carlson Didn’t Know Where the Line Was

What will Fox News look like now that he’s gone?
April 26, 2023
Tucker Carlson Didn’t Know Where the Line Was
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

[Media critic Brian Stelter, author of a forthcoming book about Fox News, Network of Lies, joined host Charlie Sykes yesterday on The Bulwark Podcast to discuss the aftermath of Tucker Carlson’s firing from the cable network.]

Brian Stelter: The network will look different. It will be automatically different as a result of this. Maybe I’m a little more optimistic than you. Or maybe that means I’m still more naïve. But I had a source say to me last night—we were talking about who’s filling in [on Fox] this week—Brian Kilmeade filled in last night and I believe is going to fill in all week long, although Fox has not confirmed that. A source said to me, “Fox feels like Brian Kilmeade knows where the line is.”

And I thought that’s really interesting. That’s kind of the whole story right there. The line has continued to move further to the right. It’s continued to move, as Jay Rosen would say, further away from the truth, further away from reality.

But there is a line, and pretty much everybody else at Fox knows that, respects that, goes along with it. Tucker, of course, as we all know, didn’t give a damn. So, if his replacement, or a successor, is someone who at least knows where the line is, that’s a change for Fox. Right? That’s a positive.

Charlie Sykes: Yeah, I don’t disagree. I took a rather darker view on all of this. But I think if you accept the principle that he really was this sort of third independent, malicious wheel, then it is hard to imagine anyone doing what he did.

Brian Stelter: Bill O’Reilly’s famous saying on the show—remember, he would always say, “Who’s looking out for you?” And that was the brand: It was that Bill O’Reilly was looking out for you, right? Tucker Carlson’s message was so different. Tucker’s message was: No one is looking out for you. We’re fucked. Right? Like, We’re doomed. No one’s looking out for you.

Now, I think the next person is going to have a different message. It’s not going to be the O’Reilly message. It’s not gonna be the Tucker message either.

And I would like to believe—again, this is me being an optimist; I’m embarrassed that this is being recorded; it’s going to be used against me for years to come—I would like to believe that maybe Rupert Murdoch wants to drag his network back to a more reality-based place. We’re going to look back and say: Firing Tucker—it was Rupert reasserting control, after being humiliated in 2020, and humiliated by the Dominion lawsuit, and revealed to be this passive guy who just sat on the sidelines and let the democracy burn. Maybe you know, in his final act, he’s trying to drag it back to reality.

Brian Stelter

Brian Stelter is the author of Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy (Atria, forthcoming in 2023) and Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth (Atria, 2020). He hosted Reliable Sources on CNN from 2013 to 2022. Twitter: @brianstelter.