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With Tucker, Fox Painted Itself Into a Corner

On November 14, 2016, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” made its debut. The timing was significant: Fox News had been reshuffling its shows and contributors for months, as it sought to hone in on a lineup that matched its audience’s preference for Donald Trump, who had won the presidency only days earlier.

Carlson delivered. His show became a clearinghouse for populist rage, a pipeline for far-right content and the most mainstream voice of the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which argued that White people were being purposefully replaced by non-white populations. The right-wing, America-First themes that defined Carlson’s broadcasts made him the voice of the MAGA base in during the Trump era — and by 2020, it made his show the most-watched in all of cable news.

So his surprise ouster from Fox News this week, coming just a week after Fox settled a $787 million defamation suit with Dominion Voting Systems, raises serious questions about where exactly Fox News goes from here — and whether it can bring its conservative audience with it.

The network has been in crisis mode for more than two years. It adjusted haltingly to the Trump era, as executives realized its audience seemed more loyal to him than to Fox News. But by the time of Trump’s inauguration, Fox News had found its footing: it would become the mouthpiece of the administration. The morning show Fox & Friends regularly gave airtime to rambling calls from the new president; primetime host Sean Hannity talked with the president most days after his show.

While Hannity became the voice of the White House, Carlson became the voice of the base. He positioned himself as a populist scrapper — never mind that he’s an heir to a frozen-food fortune with a penchant for bowties — and began warning his audience that liberal elites were coming for their gun, their jobs and their children.

From his position as the voice of the base, Carlson could criticize Trump when he stepped out of line for things like his failure to build the border wall or to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Carlson was also able to survive the discovery that his head writer regularly posted racist comments on White-nationalist web sites — and even attack corporate media, despite his role as anchor for the nation’s most popular cable-news corporation.

Read entire article at CNN