Fox News’ abrupt decision to fire its top-rating host Tucker Carlson came directly from Rupert Murdoch, according to reports.
The right-wing network told The Independent in a statement that it had “agreed to part ways” with Carlson days after it agreed to pay $787.5m to settle a defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems.
“We thank him for his service as a host and prior to that as a contributor,” the statement said.
Carlson was informed his show was being axed on Monday morning, the New York Times reported.
The decision came directly from Mr Murdoch, the Fox Corporation chairman, sources told the Los Angeles Times.
Fox News had been severely embarrassed by revelations in pre-trial court filings about its coverage in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections.
Carlson and fellow hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham privately mocked regular guests including Donald Trump’s attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, while continuing to promote their lies and conspiracy theories to their audience.
Carlson called Mr Trump a “demonic force”, and said that hated the former president “passionately” in text messages to an unknown Fox employee two days before the 6 January riots, court documents showed.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights,” he added. “I truly can’t wait.”
The hosts were spared having to testify at trial when Dominion and Fox News reached a last-gasp $787.5 settlement on Tuesday, after a jury had already been sworn in.
Carlson, 57, began hosting his nightly Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight in November 2016 in the 7pm slot.
After Megyn Kelly departed from Fox in January 2017 he shifted to the 9pm hour, quickly becoming a ratings juggernaut for the network.
When Fox host Bill O’Reilly was forced out over a string of sexual harassment allegations a few months later, he shifted to the 8pm slot where he had remained until Friday.
By June 2020 was the most-watched show on cable news attracting an average of four million viewers.
The show was heavily criticised for amplifying racist, anti-immigrant, homophobic and transphobic themes.
In 2018, Carlson told viewers that immigration had made the United States “poorer, dirtier and more divided”.
Advertisers began fleeing the show, but Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch resisted calls to reign him in.
After the invasion of Ukraine last February, Carlson took a stridently pro-Putin position and regularly parroted Kremlin talking points.
He also drew the ire of Democrats and law enforcement for repeatedly claiming that the January 6 insurrection had been a largely peaceful protest.
According to the Washington Post, it was Carlson’s comments about Fox management revealed during the Dominion lawsuit that sealed his fate.
Minutes after news of Carlson’s departure broke, Fox Corporation’s stock price plunged by 4 per cent.