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Tucker-ed Out: What Carlson’s Departure From Fox Means for 2024

When Donald Trump, the GOP’s presidential frontrunner, gave his first post-indictment interview, it was to Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

When Vivek Ramaswamy announced his candidacy earlier this year, it was on Tucker’s show.

And when Russia first invaded Ukraine, support for arming Kiev against Putin’s assault was the same among Republicans and Democrats. Then Carlson began speaking out against Ukraine and America’s support for the Zelenskyy government. “I don’t care what Putin does in Ukraine,” Carlson said.

After a year of Carlson’s messaging, Republican support for backing Ukraine has plunged.

Monday’s news that Fox News dropped Carlson in the wake of a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems is technically a media story. But because of the 53-year-old TV host’s influence on the GOP base, it is as much a story about politics as it is about ratings.

In the big picture, Carlson’s reach via Fox was relatively small. While he had the top-rated cable news show –indeed, he holds the record for highest cable news viewership of all time — his 3 million or so nightly viewers represent one percent of America’s population. (By comparison, CBS’s show “FBI” has about 8.5 million weekly viewers.)

But among Republican voters, particularly Trump-friendly activists, Carlson’s influence was massive. He turned news topics into political issues GOP candidates had to confront, and he focused the party’s base on policies like Critical Race Theory and ballot security.

“Tucker was the mainstay of the populist voice over at Fox,” former Trump advisor Steve Bannon said after the news broke. “With his departure, I don’t know why anybody needs to watch anything on the Murdoch empire.”

And Donald Trump, Jr. told right-wing radio host, Charlie Kirk, “It changes things permanently.”

Those changes are likely to be felt in the First in the Nation GOP presidential primary.

“Tucker leaving FOX means that maybe candidates can be themselves, rather than twisting themselves in knots in hopes of making Tucker happy, like DeSantis’ twists and turns on Ukraine,” former Republican National Committee political director Mike DuHaime told NHJournal.

Gail Huff Brown is a veteran news broadcaster who ran in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District GOP primary last year. She’s also the wife of former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.

“I don’t know yet why Tucker Carlson was fired, but I have to admit it was a surprise since he’s a big fish in the Fox pond,” Huff Brown told NHJournal. “I do not think it will have a negative impact on Trump’s popularity in New Hampshire because Tucker will find a way to get his opinions out to his fan base via social media.

“Without Fox management having a say in Carlson’s opinions, he may be able to help Trump even more,” she added.

Radio talk host Jack Heath is a fixture in New Hampshire political media and a former news director at WMUR-TV. “I’m not sure Tucker Carlson’s absence on FOX will have a big impact, if any, on 2024 and the presidential race,” Heath said. “I think FOX has lost some overall punch as a news organization and viewership for a bunch of reasons which go beyond one host’s nightly show. But they are not alone. CNN seems lost these days, and I’m sure their numbers show it. People are tuning out to TV news across the country.”

On the stock market, Fox Corporation stocks fell three percent Monday, a sign of Carlson’s value to advertisers. But Granite State political strategist Perikilis Karoutas says he doesn’t expect a major shift in how GOP primary voters get their news, particularly here in New Hampshire.

“We have a larger share of older voters than most states, and it’s hard to change people’s behavior. People who watch Fox News every night after dinner aren’t going to stop because Tucker’s not there. It’s their habit,” Karoutas said.

Which is why, says veteran NHGOP consultant David Carney, the impact of Tucker’s departure “will depend on how they replace him. Yes, cable news is still huge with primary voters. Those other formats — social media, podcasts, Substack — are really one way and don’t have the visual impact of TV.”

And with or without Fox News, Carney said, “Tucker Carlson will still be loud and proud.”

Counterpoint: The War on Woke Is a Scam on Middle America

For an alternate viewpoint, see: Point: To Be Woke Is to Be MAGA

Buckle up, team: I’m a White man from the Midwest with a story to tell about wokeness.

I live in an Ohio railroad town. Locals hear trains calling through the night, wait them out at crossings, and photograph them trundling along the river past the old mill downtown. But as our neighbors two counties over in East Palestine know, those cars don’t just carry freight or Old World charm — they also bring danger.

While we refreshed local EPA reports in the days after the Norfolk Southern derailment, I wondered who’d get blamed for it. There was no shortage of options.

Norfolk Southern skimped on maintenance, overstretched its workers, and used the profits to hike its stock price.

Ohio’s governor and the local congressman accepted thousands from the company while the statehouse dutifully killed a bipartisan rail safety bill the company lobbied against. Former president Donald Trump, who showed up after the crash to promote his bottled water brand, had killed an Obama-era regulation to prevent accidents like these.

But on the MAGA circuit, none of these were to blame.

Instead, as the Ohio Capital Journal’s Marilou Johanek put it, we got “opportunists exploiting East Palestine’s suffering population with politics and race-baiting.” In this telling, it wasn’t corporate or government corruption that caused the suffering in East Palestine. It was “wokeness.”

Fox host Tucker Carlson proclaimed that East Palestine was affected because it “is overwhelmingly White, and it’s politically conservative.” As writer Greg Sargent summarized, Carlson alleged the administration would have cared more “if the accident had happened in Philadelphia or Detroit — wink, wink.”

“If this train derailment happened in downtown Atlanta in the densely populated Black neighborhoods,” agreed far-right activist Charlie Kirk, “this would be the number-one news story.” The millionaire talk show host insisted that our leaders “hate working-class Whites,” and, in fact, there’s a whole “crusade against White people.”

Fox talking head Jesse Waters played a similar note, asking this about Michael Regan, President Biden’s Black EPA administrator: “Is this his idea of fighting environmental racism? Spilling toxic chemicals on poor White people in Ohio?

Donald Trump Jr., for his part, denigrated Treasury Secretary Pete Buttigieg as “the gay guy.”

This is the “war on woke” sham in a nutshell.

Well-heeled politicians and millionaire MAGA media figures tell poor Whites to blame Black people, LGBTQ people, and vague liberal ideas for troubles any sensible person would blame on a greedy corporation and the bought-off politicians — from the GOP-run Ohio statehouse on up to the White House — who enabled it.

Even while lambasting President Biden, they had little to say about his bad decision to snub the railroad unions, perhaps because most Republicans — many flush with railroad cash — supported that, too. The only beneficiaries are the bad actors who poisoned the poor Ohio community these pundits claim to represent from their perches in New York or Washington.

They play the same game all over.

Right-wing politicians rail against “woke corporations” only to collect corporate campaign cashpush corporate tax cuts, and oppose minimum wage hikes, sick leave, and union organizing. They ban books about race and viciously attack LGBTQ kids to protect education while systematically underfunding schools.

A self-described “anti-woke budget” drafted by former Trump officials would cut the “woke” Environmental Protection Agency by 30 percent. What a gift to East Palestine, where the EPA is doing emergency cleanup operations.

This hateful, fact-free rhetoric is doing incredible damage.

It spreads cruel and dangerous anti-LGBTQ laws. It’s gutting classroom libraries. It’s led to absurd conspiracy theories, an emboldened and violent White supremacist fringe, and the January 6 coup attempt. It divides urban and rural communities of every race and color who might otherwise work together against influential people who do them wrong.

In court, a lawyer for Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida recently defined “woke” as the “general belief in systemic injustices in the country.” Ask yourself: Why would a powerful politician want to banish that belief?

Instead, the MAGA bargain for Middle America goes something like this: If we hurt other people worse, is it OK if we hurt you, too?

Sorry, but I guess this White Ohioan would rather be woke.

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