Facts About Tucker Carlson, The Controversial Former Fox News Firebrand

Of all the popular names in television news, Tucker Carlson's stands out. Not only has he jumped from CNN to MSNBC to Fox News and beyond, but his particular sense of style — both in dress (he was a fan of bow ties for quite some time) and in media practice — has afforded him a unique spotlight. Now the former host of one of Fox News' most popular programs, Carlson has all but redefined the conservative network — for better or for worse — and has left behind him a complex and drama-ridden legacy. The man in front of the camera has been proven to be incredibly different from the capable writer and researcher that Carlson has been described as, leading some to wonder what his next move will be.

While on the air with Fox News, Carlson became synonymous with his eyebrow-raising takes. From vehemently supporting former president Donald Trump to peddling conspiracy theories that only used to exist on the outer fringes of social media, Carlson brought the radical right into the mainstream and popularized the now polar-opposite politics that so many of us have accepted as the norm. Given his influence and rhetoric, it came as a shock when Fox News announced on April 24, 2023, that the network and Carlson would be parting ways — it was the divorce that no one saw coming. But who is Carlson underneath his Fox News bravado?

Tucker got his academic start in history before turning to journalism

If Tucker Carlson ever had any doubts about his career path, all he had to do was look to his father as an example. Growing up, the Fox News star watched as his dad, Dick Carlson, navigating the professional world as a media executive, working as the director of Voice of America and as the CEO of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Clearly having an in within the journalism industry, Tucker Carlson attended Trinity College and studied history — sort of. In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Tucker revealed that he could typically be found drunk while in undergrad, though he did manage to graduate in 1991. Marrying his wife, Susan Andrews, shortly thereafter, Tucker turned his focus to his career and originally pursued avenues in intelligence.

Jumping into the journalism world wasn't his first thought. The CNN alum originally applied to the CIA, but he was eventually turned down. Thinking that the news industry would be a good fit, Tucker's father gave him a piece of his mind when ruminating about the professional decision. "You should consider journalism," Dick Carlson said. "They'll take anybody."

From there, Tucker Carlson landed his first media job at Policy Review, working as a fact-checker. "I ended up working for this magazine because the standards are so low," he told the Columbia Journalism Review of his very first gig.

Tucker started his career with a notably liberal news network

From applying to the CIA to getting his start at Policy Review, Tucker Carlson found his way to CNN by 2000. Offering his thoughts on the Lieberman-Cheney vice-presidential debate at the time, Carlson found his niche at the network and eventually landed his own show, "The Spin Room," alongside co-host Bill Press. From there, Carlson jumped to the network's popular show, "Crossfire," and was made the co-host in 2001.

Carlson seemed to be panning out well as the talking head for "Crossfire" until a choice encounter in 2004 changed everything. Welcoming fiery comedian and then-"Daily Show" host Jon Stewart to the program, Carlson and Stewart got into it on camera. "I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion," Carlson said to Stewart as things were heating up (via Yahoo!). "You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a d*ck on your show as you are on any show," Stewart fired back. The moment did not bode well for Carlson, and by January 2005, then-CNN President Jonathan Klein told The New York Times that "Crossfire" was being canceled. "There are outlets for the kind of show Tucker wants to do and CNN isn't going to be one of them," Klein said of the news.

From there, Carlson jumped to MSNBC — another very left-leaning network — but his show there was canceled by 2008. Going into business for himself, Carlson launched The Daily Caller with Neil Patel.

Tucker quick aligned himself with Donald Trump amid his presidency

CNN wasn't the right fit, and neither was MSNBC, but Tucker Carlson eventually found a home — at least for a time — at Fox News. His show, "Tucker Carlson Tonight," ran from 2016 until 2023 and brought in the most viewers out of any cable news network host. Launching his most recent show as of publication during the same time Donald Trump was wading into politics, Carlson quickly aligned himself with the eventual president. Not only did Carlson entertain the businessman and interview him on a number of occasions, but he even thumbed some of Trump's conspiracy theory peddling early on and offered him the information in order to do so.

For instance, back in 2017, Carlson said on his show that immigration — notably from Sweden — was the reason for rising crime rates. The then-president was definitely watching, because shortly thereafter during a rally in Florida, Trump referenced the very line about Sweden and a terror attack that supposedly happened the day before. The truth was, however, that nothing actually happened in the relatively quiet country, only proving Carlson's sphere of influence over the then-commander-in-chief.

A Republican strategist said it best when estimating just how much control Carlson had over politics and viewers, telling Politico: "If you are a Republican politician and you want to know where Republican voters are, all you have to do is watch Tucker Carlson every night."

The Fox host became known for peddling conspiracy theories on air

Informing viewers — and the then-president — that Sweden's crime rate was through the roof thanks to rising immigration was one of the least troubling conspiracy theories that Tucker Carlson promoted on his show. Throughout the course of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," the anchor pushed a number of falsehoods into the public eye ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, with NPR asserting that he "[injected] a dark strain of conspiracy-mongering into Republican politics."

Telling his three million viewers that immigration "makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided" (via The Washington Post), Carlson didn't hesitate to insert his troubling opinion and call it "news" — and he didn't stop there. He retorted that the concept of white supremacy was a "hoax" and that hate speech is "a made-up category designed to gut the First Amendment and shut you up" (via Media Matter for America). Carlson went as far as to promote historically racist ways of thinking such as the "great replacement" theory, a false narrative leading white people to think that people of color will replace them as citizens and voters (via NPR).

Commenting on Carlson's influence for NPR, Vanderbilt University history professor Nicole Hemmer said that his show "has been both a source of that kind of nationalist, populist conservatism that Donald Trump embodied, but it's also been a clearinghouse for conspiracies."

Tucker vehemently defended Trump amid the January 6 riot news

It was an extremely dark day in United States history when Donald Trump addressed his supporters at a Washington, D.C. mall, telling them to take their country back after peddling conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. What followed was a terrifying attack on the Capitol Building in order to stop the certification of Joe Biden's 2020 victory, with the then-president huddled in the Oval Office watching the situation devolve in real-time. Trump was eventually impeached — for the second time — due to what transpired on January 6, 2021, but Tucker Carlson was one such powerhouse within Republican media and politics that did not criticize the then-president. Instead, he defended Trump vehemently and even got behind a Fox News special about the day in question.

Presenting viewers with images from the day, Carlson's three-part series called "Patriot Purge" asserted that it was Trump's enemies — not supporters — who stormed the Capitol, placing the blame on left-leaning groups and, shockingly, the FBI. Commenting on Carlson's series and defense of Trump, extremism expert Jared Holt told NPR: "These kinds of conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 used to be relegated to weird blogs and known conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones. In a way, you don't need conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones to even exist if Tucker Carlson is going to do the job of conspiracy theorists for them."

The television personality was adamant that the 2020 election was not fair

The conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and its legitimacy continue to circulate to this day, thanks in part to Tucker Carlson. The influential media tycoon has maintained that the election in which Joe Biden beat Donald Trump was not legitimate, and in an extensive profile with Time magazine, the former Fox News anchor maintained that not only did Biden win an election unfairly, but that Carlson himself didn't have any evidence to back up said claim.

When asked if he thought Biden won legitimately, Carlson quickly shot back: "He did win the election. Do I think the election was fair? Obviously it wasn't." He then went on to list his own reasonings why the former vice president won the election: the media was against Trump and for Biden the entire time, conservative news platforms were silenced by social media, and voter-ID laws let fraud slip through the cracks. When Time reminded Carlson that the Department of Homeland Security and Trump's own attorney general found zero evidence of election fraud, Carlson quipped that his example may be a bit shallow.

"No one's ever proved that. I don't know if it's provable," he said, before adding in his signature anchor way of speaking: "This weird insistence on pretending the election was fair when everyone knows that it wasn't, even people who are happy about the outcome, is part of a much larger ritual that makes me very uncomfortable."

Amid a lawsuit, Tucker's personal text messages raging against Trump were released

Tucker Carlson spent years in front of conservative viewers of his Fox News show telling them time and time again that he was on Donald Trump's side. In many instances, it appeared as though Carlson was Trump's biggest defender — someone who would go to extreme lengths to please the former president and maintain his relationship. However, much of that changed when Fox News was sued by Dominion Voting Systems, of which the lawsuit was settled in 2023.

Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for defamation, as its anchors regularly took aim at the voting technology used in elections. As part of the lawsuit, some of Carlson's personal text messages were made available, and the contents of his back and forth with producer Alex Pfeiffer were shocking. "What he is good at is destroying things," Carlson wrote (via The Washington Post) about Trump – one part of an ongoing series of messages where the Fox News anchor railed against the former president. "He's the undisputed world champion at that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong. It's so obvious."

When his correspondence became public, Carlson quickly played defense and said: "I love Trump, like, as a person ... I'm enraged that my private texts were pulled" (via USA Today). It was a dissolution that not many saw coming.

Trump gave his first interview to Tucker since being indicted

Donald Trump's time in office — and the aftermath of his presidency — is historic. He's the only president to be impeached twice, the only president to face a criminal indictment, and on the heels of these charges, the former commander-in-chief sat down with none other than Tucker Carlson for an interview to tell his side of the story. Despite the texts that were released on Carlson's behalf, the Fox News anchor's show reached more viewers than any other network host could pray for, so it wasn't entirely shocking that Trump selected Carlson for the part. What was concerning, however, was that Carlson did not challenge Trump or call out any of his inaccuracies while speaking — as a balanced journalist would. Instead, Carlson let Trump go on and on, prompting CNN's Oliver Darcy to characterize the sit-down as a "weak excuse for an interview."

During the conversation, Carlson praised Trump consistently, saying at one point: "For a man caricatured as an extremist, we think you'll find what he has to say moderate, sensible, and wise" (via CNN). Shortly thereafter, Carlson blamed the situation Trump found himself in on the "Neo-con media establishment" and slammed other outlets for painting Trump as a "dangerous lunatic."

Nevertheless, Darcy was not impressed by the lack of strategic questioning on Carlson's part, arguing that "Carlson bowed before Trump at Mar-a-Lago."

Tucker has maintained that elections are rigged well into 2023

Conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the 2020 election have not only been maintained since Joe Biden's win, but Donald Trump is now facing a criminal lawsuit in the state of Georgia, where the final report from a special grand jury could wreak havoc on his reelection chances come 2024. Despite overwhelming investigations proving over again that there was no voter fraud present in the 2020 election, Trump and Tucker Carlson have publicly maintained that Joe Biden's win was illegitimate — that is the key caveat. However, Carlson's texts released amid the Fox/Dominion lawsuit played a very different tune. Calling the peddled conspiracy theories "crazy, cruel, reckless, and destructive" behind closed doors (via The Washington Post), Carlson was not on Trump's side. In front of the camera, however, the Fox News alum said that the voting machines, in particular, undermined the election and that the game was rigged.

Carlson has maintained this line well into 2023, and when sitting down with a January 6 protestor for an interview, Carlson proved just how far he was willing to go to prove that his on-camera persona was on Trump's side. "January 6th, I think, is probably second only to the 2020 election as the biggest scam in my lifetime," he said (via Twitter). "And we know it is because [Democrats] become completely hysterical when confronted with any facts that deviate from their lies."

Tucker was informed he was let go from Fox the same day the public found out

Given how synonymous Tucker Carlson and Fox News became over the years, it certainly was a shock when the network announced they were parting ways with the popular host. Announcing the news on April 24, 2023, Fox News said in a statement: "We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor," noting that his final show had aired on April 21, the Friday before. The network offered no reasoning behind the decision in their statement, adding more fuel to the speculation fire.

A person close to the situation told CNN that the decision was made by chief executives Lachlan Murdoch and Suzanne Scott, noting that Carlson was told about his departure on the same day the public found out. As the news settled, Anti-Defamation League head Jonathan Greenblatt praised the decision, saying it was "about time [as Carlson] ... used his primetime show to spew antisemitic, racist, xenophobic and anti-LGBTQ hate to millions."

Within Fox News, a source told CNN that some colleagues praised the decision, while others were genuinely surprised at the shake-up. "[There's] a lot of relief generally, surprise they had the nerve to do it, and hope for a culture change," an anonymous employee said of Carlson's departure. For his part, Carlson has stayed relatively quiet on the matter as of publication.

Fox is said to have an opposition file against Tucker if he comes after the network

With such a high-profile firing comes risk, especially given Tucker Carlson's long-standing connection to Donald Trump and his influence over conservative politics. In the fallout of Fox News parting ways with the popular host, eight separate sources confirmed to Rolling Stone that the network's executives have an "oppo file" on Carlson as a kind of insurance.

When Carlson and Fox called it quits, the network put out a blanket statement thanking him for his work, but one of the insiders told Rolling Stone that the departure occurred on "the worst [and] messiest possible terms." With such risk, executives are said to have collected damaging information regarding Carlson in preparation for a worst-case scenario fallout, the operation led by the head of the communications department, Irena Briganti. Two sources confirmed that Fox is ready to dispel the information in the file if Carlson takes aim at Fox in the aftermath of his departure, and the contents are said to be questionable at best.

Within the file are said to be complaints lodged by employees detailing the problematic workplace environment created by Carlson, the former host's comments regarding higher-ups, and allegations regarding his own conduct in the workplace. Given that he is facing a lawsuit filed by a former employee, Carlson is seemingly looking down the barrel of a powerful gun.

Both Tucker and CNN's Don Lemon retained the same high-power lawyer after termination

It seemed as though network news dealt a one-two punch on April 24, 2023, because just hours after Fox News announced that they were parting ways with Tucker Carlson, CNN's Don Lemon revealed that he had been fired by the network. It certainly came as a shock to both the journalism community and beyond — despite their on-air differences, both Carlson and Lemon quickly retained the legal skills of lawyer Bryan Freedman in order to make their departures smoother (and certainly more lucrative).

Freedman is a Los Angeles-based attorney known for helping high-profile clients win big against their employers. For instance, he helped Megyn Kelly receive a sizable payout when she departed NBC and aided Chris Cuomo when he was ousted by CNN — that case is still ongoing as of publication. Freedman went as far as representing the late Michael Jackson's estate when the HBO documentary "Leaving Neverland" dropped — which detailed Jackson's alleged sexual abuse. Freedman secured a $100 million payout from the streaming service and won the case on appeal (via The New York Times). Of course, time will tell just how much Freedman will be able to secure for both Carlson and Lemon, as their departures are still fresh as of publication.

For his part, Freedman has settled cases lodged against his own person, notably a 1980s sexual assault case brought against him. He settled for $40,000.

Tucker is facing a lawsuit regarding discrimination in the midst of his departure from Fox

In amongst his departure from Fox News and the supposed dossier that the network has against him in case of emergency, Tucker Carlson is facing a lawsuit lodged against him by a former senior booking producer of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," Abby Grossberg. She filed two different suits against the former host, alleging that Carlson not only created a hostile work environment at Fox but maintained a culture of sexism and harassment. 

Providing detail in the suit, Grossberg alleged that Carlson kept a photo of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the newsroom "in a bathing suit revealing her cleavage" (via NPR). Grossberg also alleged that the newsroom staff were polled about which Michigan gubernatorial candidate they would want to have intercourse with — twice. In the wake of Carlson's departure from Fox, one of Grossberg's attorneys commented on the matter, highlighting the supposed toxic work environment that was created by the host.

"Tucker Carlson's departure from Fox News is, in part, an admission of the systemic lying, bullying, and conspiracy-mongering claimed by our client," attorney Tanvir Rahman said in a statement on the afternoon of April 24, 2023. "Mr. Carlson and his subordinates remain individual defendants in the S.D.N.Y. case and we look forward to taking their depositions under oath in the very near term."

What is Tucker Carlson's next move after Fox?

Given Tucker Carlson's immense popularity and sphere of influence when it comes to conservative politics and voters, it's natural to ask what comes next for the former Fox host. He has yet to explicitly comment on his departure from the network as of publication, instead giving a quick quip to the Daily Mail which read in part: "Retirement is going great so far," offering little else about the matter. But, that hasn't stopped allies from expressing their support of the controversial media figure, with former Fox host Glenn Beck saying on his own radio show, TheBlaze, that Carlson has a job with him if he's interested.

"We would love to have you here. You won't miss a beat. And together, the two of us will tear it up. Just tear it up," he said alongside co-host Stu Burguiere (via Newsweek). Beck was quick to take aim at the network, too, adding that Carlson's departure will have significant blowback on Fox's ratings.

"I think that will kill Fox. I really do," Beck said of the network's decision. "I know so many people that, you know, still kind of like Fox. And they watch the other shows. But they're like, Tucker, Tucker is the only one that I really trust. You lose Tucker Carlson. I think that really kills them."