Television presenter Sarah Haines of ABC’s “The View” spoke for many viewers as she celebrated the departure of right-wing television host Tucker Carlson from the Fox News Network.
“I’m glad to know that someone like him no longer has the platform he built,” she exclaimed.
Similarly, CNN anchor Don Lemon’s impeachment on April 23, 2023 — the same day as Carlson’s — generated just as much celebration from conservatives.
One of them was Nikki Haleythe presidential candidate and former governor of South Carolina, whom Lemon had previously described as a woman who had reached her prime when she launched its campaign for 2024.
Lemon’s firing is “a great day for women around the world,” Haley proclaimed.
In this era of hyperpartisan news programming, both Carlson and Lemon proved talented at providing perspectives that validated their audiences’ view of the world.
It’s not clear why Lemon and Carlson were fired, but in my opinion as one media scholarthey were removed because they no longer offered the benefits their employers expected.
Instead, I believe they had become a potential threat to the networks’ viewership and ad revenue. Rather than a victory for women or the truth, I view these layoffs as an attempt to sustain and grow corporate profits.
Hyperpartisan news media
The arrival of cable news created more channels for the public to watch in the 1980s, breaking an audience long dominated by the NBC, ABC, and CBS networks.
Internet, smartphones and social media fragmented audience. If journalists And media scholars have pointed out, the solution for many media companies in the 1990s was to focus their programming on a single audience rather than trying to attract a larger, general audience.
Scholars And journalists note that to attract a targeted demographic, cable news media relied on highly partisan coverage that framed news stories as liberal versus conservative. This approach proved viable, as subsequent surveys showed that television audiences preferred newscasts that confirmed their political views and attacked their political rivals.
Liberal outlets concentrated on liberals confirm’ views by introducing caricatures of conservatives who can easily be villainized. The reverse was true with conservative outlets.
In my view, the unintended result of such partisan programming by 2021 was that the public recognized that the No. 1 threat to their lives were other Americans.
In this cable news environment, Carlson began working at CNN moved to 2000 MSNBC in 2005 and arrived at Fox News Channel in 2009 where he became a mega star in 2016 with his own program ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’.
True or not, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” offered far-right ideological content that drew average 3 million nightly viewersand Carlson became the highest rated personality in cable news media.
Among Carlson’s falsehoods were those immigrants mostly were responsible for polluting an American river; that the US ended slavery around the world; and that more children died from drowning in their bathtub than accidentally from guns.
Whether he actually believed any of those falsehoods remains unknown.
What is known is that Carlson did not personally believe Donald Trump’s claims that he won the 2020 presidential election — and yet he repeated Trump’s baseless claims rather than contesting them.
In a text message to Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s most ardent lawyers, Carlson wrote:
“You keep telling our viewers that millions of voices have been changed by the software. I hope you will prove that soon. You convinced them that Trump will win. If you don’t have conclusive evidence of fraud on that scale, it’s cruel and reckless to keep saying it.”
But in a text to his Fox News colleagues, Carlson was less hopeful:
“Sidney Powell is lying,” He wrote.
At that time almost 70% of Tucker’s target audience believed the election was stolen.
As a result, despite knowing that the 2020 election was not stolen, Carlson continued to report the exact opposite of what he knew was false.
A clumsy Lemon
In stark contrast to Carlson, Lemon positioned himself as CNN’s chief executive liberal swearing party of the Trump era.
Like Carlson, Lemon manipulated evidence to create stories that validated liberal biases against conservative media personalities, such as falsely reporting that Hurricane Ian‘s size was a result of climate change; that President Joe Biden “wrongly spokeninstead of lying (what other news outlets claimed to be the case) on voting procedures in Georgia; that it is plausible that Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has disappeared black hole; and that CNN‘s report on ivermectin and popular podcaster Joe Rogan accurate.
CNN’s support for Lemon began to wane after a CNN broadcast on February 16, 2023, when he stated that Haley was “past her prime”.
Feeling the contempt of his two female co-hosts, of whom he had a long history cursing on and off camera, Lemon clarified: “I don’t think so. … If you google ‘when is a woman in her prime’ it says ’20, 30 and 40.’”
Lemon was taken off the air so he could attend sensitivity training to address his sexist attitude.
An April 2023 Variety report seemed to spell the end for Lemon on CNN. The report details other incidents of Lemon’s misogyny, including malicious lyrics, sexist mockery, and vicious tirades aimed at female colleagues.
According to the report, Citroen was accused of threatening several female colleagues for being hired for positions he deserved.
In another incident, Lemon claimed so during a 2008 editorial interview with about 30 staffers Soledad O’Brien shouldn’t be hosting “Black in America” because she’s not black. O’Brien identifies as Afro-Cuban.
In this era of hyperpartisanship, the revelations about Carlson and Lemon made it difficult for their networks to sell them as authentic ideological voices.
In addition, both of these individuals were a hassle for management.
At CNN, viewership for the show Lemon co-hosted had been dwindling for quite some time — as was that for the network in general.
At Fox News, Carlson’s texts revealed his disdain for the network’s leadership And streaming platform. In addition, major companies such as Disney, Papa John’s, Poshmark and T-Mobile had refused to advertise on Carlson’s program since 2021.
Although one YouGov Poll found that viewers who cite Fox News as the cable news network they watch most often were more likely to disapprove of Carlson’s firing — 50% — than to approve — 29%. Fox News Channel had good reason to believe it could replace Tucker and still find success with conservative audiences.
For one, one Ipsos survey found that non-Fox News Channel viewers are more likely to view the channel as a news source now that Carlson has been fired. This means that Carlson’s absence may draw more audiences.
In addition, for decades, Fox News Channel has developed a formula for creating and replacing conservative personalities, such as Glen Beck, Bill O’Reilly And Megan Kelly.
Instead of celebrating Lemon and Carlson’s removal, audiences should be wondering what truths some of the current personalities on the air had to sacrifice in order to stay on the job.
For cable news personalities, partisanship — not journalism — can be a job requirement.