The respective reasoning behind Monday’s bombshell firings of Don Lemon by CNN and Tucker Carlson at Fox News came into focus by evening as it became evident that Lemon’s luck had been finally squeezed out among CNN executives following a tense, race-bait-filled interview with 2024 GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.
And, in the case of Carlson, liberal journalists ran with a whole host of reasons, ranging from what Carlson said in messages unearthed during the Dominion lawsuit to a suit from disgruntled former producer alleging an unhealthy work environment.
The New York Times chose to do some legwork on Lemon’s ouster and found that, after Puck’s Dylan Byers had said CNN bosses viewed it possible there’d be no “strike three” in terms of Lemon misbehavior, there was indeed a third strike.
This time, it wasn’t a temper tantrum that allegedly left a co-host in tears or even a sexist smear of 2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Instead, it was Wednesday’s racist lecture of Ramaswamy:
The segment deteriorated as the men fiercely debated questions of Black history and the Second Amendment; Mr. Lemon’s co-anchor Ms. Harlow could be seen sitting silently beside him, at times casting her gaze elsewhere and scrolling through her smartphone.
The incident left several CNN leaders exasperated, the people said.
The Times further explained that CNN could be in for a legal fight with Lemon, like Carlson, having “retained the aggressive Hollywood litigator Bryan Freedman to” sort out the reminder of his contract (which “runs through 2026”) and, in reporting backed up by the New York Post, CNN “bookers had discovered that some guests did not want to appear on the air with Mr. Lemon.”
The ever-hacktastic Daily Beast charitably had a section of its “Confider” newsletter on Lemon’s ouster. Citing sources that believe “[h]is long record of diva-like behavior on and off the air set in motion his demise,” they shared new reporting that the backed up a key plank of a devastating Variety piece on April 3 that, along with toxic behavior toward colleagues, painted Lemon as having been inconsistent in his work ethic.
Worse yet, Lemon hired Jeff Zucker’s former colleague and lover to run crisis communications (click “expand”):
That includes previously unreported behavior like refusing to attend pre-production rehearsals for CNN This Morning because he was “pissed” he wasn’t the center of the show and would have to share equal hosting duties with co-anchors Poppy Harlow and rising star Kaitlan Collins. Lemon even had a meltdown in front of bosses after being informed he would not be allowed to drink alcohol on-air during CNN’s New Year’s Eve telecast, two people familiar with the matter told Confider.
Lemon’s fate had been sealed for weeks, people with knowledge of the matter told us, and he was keenly aware of his coming exit, calling around over the last week for a crisis comms specialist to help out. He ultimately decided on Allison Gollust, who previously ran comms for CNN and resigned from the network two weeks after former CEO Jeff Zucker was fired for not disclosing his relationship with her. CNN CEO Chris Licht had hoped to give Lemon a soft landing and had Amy Entelis, CNN’s executive VP for talent, reach out to the star’s agent, Jay Sures of UTA, to negotiate an exit. Lemon was invited to meet with Licht on Monday afternoon, and would have been given an opportunity to say goodbye on-air Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Instead, Lemon went nuclear[.]
Puck’s Byers also had a piece late Monday on the dual ousters. He said, while Lemon had been on the hunt for a crisis PR team, “had no inkling that he was going to be fired and didn’t enlist outside help until today.” But, overall, Byers argued, “Lemon’s fall from cable news stardom is undeniably somewhat of his own making” and, since Zucker’s axing, “Lemon simply seemed visibly unhappy.”
Carlson, though? Here’s where the picture remains murky, aside from it having become clear this wasn’t in anyway amicable and instead a firing.
The Daily Beast, The Los Angeles Times, Mediaite, The New York Times, Puck, Semafor, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post were a few of the outlets that reported between Monday afternoon and evening that the decision was made Friday night by Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott. Some added Lachlan’s father Rupert also had a role in removing cable’s most popular host.
The Daily Beast claimed the “most egregious” offense that “loomed large in [Carlson’s] termination” were messages he sent and were picked up in discovery of the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit that contained “vulgar comments…about Sidney Powell, the right-wing lawyer behind many of the bonkers 2020 election lies pushed on Fox’s airwaves.”
Puck’s Byers disagreed, citing redacted messages that “further disparaged his colleagues and his bosses” that, while not known to the public, were “to the Murdochs and their lawyers—as well as the lawyers for Dominion.”
The LA Times’s Stephen Battaglio had two ideas with one being “Carlson’s exit is related to the discrimination lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg, the producer fired by the network last month” and has “alleged she was bullied and subjected to antisemitic comments.” And, in the other, Battaglio said “Murdoch also was said to be concerned about Carlson’s coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.”
A fellow News Corp. property, The Journal laid out their view, siding with the “disparaging remarks” theory (click “expand”):
Fox News parted ways with prime-time host Tucker Carlson, a surprising move that comes after he made disparaging remarks about colleagues at the network that were disclosed during a legal battle with a voting-machine company.
Fox took issue with remarks Mr. Carlson made that were derogatory toward the network, people familiar with the matter said. Much of the communications were redacted in court documents but became known internally to senior Fox management, they said.
Predictably, The Times was ebullient in much the same way they were with the Trump indictment:
Fox News on Monday dismissed Tucker Carlson, its most popular prime-time host, who became one of the most influential voices on the American right in recent years with his blustery, inflammatory monologues on immigrants, Black civil rights activists, vaccines and national identity.
The far-left paper said Carlson’s show had been “grating on [Lachlan] Murdoch and his father, Rupert Murdoch,” but went no further and instead rehashed all the tiresome, liberal screeches of hatred for not just Carlson, but his viewers and anyone remotely close to his beliefs.
Finally, The Post focused on both the messages dredged up by Dominion and the producer suit. They also reported the fact that Carlson and his staff had been already drawing up summer plans (click “expand”):
More recently, Carlson’s staff culture had come under scrutiny, after a former booker for his show sued Fox News for discrimination, claiming that she endured sexist treatment while working for him, and messages revealed in the lawsuit showed Carlson referring to Sidney Powell, a female attorney affiliated with Donald Trump, as a “c---.”
But Carlson’s comments about Fox colleagues, as partly revealed in the Dominion case, also played a role in his departure, a person familiar with the company’s thinking told The Washington Post.
Dozens of communications from Carlson and other Fox personnel remain out of public view, redacted at the request of Fox attorneys, but they have been seen by top Fox executives. Others generated headlines when they were released this year with Dominion’s legal filings.
The host himself, whose last appearance was Friday on his nightly show, only learned of his firing in a phone call Monday morning. He and his team had spent the weekend working on their plans for summer shows, according to a person familiar with the conversation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about internal matters. The network was still running promos for Carlson’s show Monday morning.