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Tucker Carlson is leaving Fox — will veiled antisemitism and the great replacement theory go with him?

The news host is famous for promoting conspiracy theories and antisemitic dog whistles on his primetime show.

Tucker Carlson is leaving Fox News, effective immediately. Monday morning, Fox announced in a brief statement that the host of Tucker Carlson Tonight would be parting ways with the broadcasting corporation.

“We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor,” the statement read.

Fox’s statement also noted that Carlson’s last show was the previous Friday, indicating that he would not be given any opportunity to explain, wish his devoted viewers goodbye or announce his next role. The decision appears sudden, given that Carlson signed off his Friday program with “see you Monday.” Fox was apparently still airing teasers for Carlson’s show as recently as Monday morning.

Speculation online began immediately. Some claim he quit due to disagreements with management. Many assume Carlson was terminated as a result of the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox, or that documents unearthed during the discovery process revealed something that caused the company to fire one of its most popular hosts. Most of those speculating agree that since Tucker Carlson Tonight was the highest-rated cable news show in history, if Carlson was fired, the offense was a major one.

Why it matters

Regardless of the reasons behind Carlson’s departure, the change is certain to impact U.S. politics. Carlson’s show was beamed directly into the living rooms of millions of Americans, and his sway over his massive audience was legendary. He drove and spread conspiracy theories such as the belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen — despite internal texts revealing that Carlson himself did not support Trump or believe the election was stolen. 

He also frequently alluded to the great replacement theory, a conspiracy that Jews or other racial minorities are attempting to exterminate or replace white people, though Carlson’s references to it were always just veiled enough to maintain plausible deniability against accusations of racism or antisemitism. Dog whistles were frequently employed on his show; he repeatedly vilified George Soros while lauding the nationalist and antisemitic leadership of Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban.

Perhaps showing Carlson’s conspiratorial influence on his viewers, some of his supporters are claiming that Fox is controlled by the “liberal elite” and implying that the news host is being punished for his work at exposing the “Deep State,” a conspiracy associated with QAnon that a secret, elite cabal controls the world. 

For those who have watched Carlson’s rhetoric with growing concern, it is easy to feel relieved at the idea that the erstwhile host has lost his platform. But it is unlikely that Carlson will disappear for long. And whatever his next platform will be, he could potentially continue to shape U.S. politics.

What Tucker Carlson’s future might hold

Another cable network

Perhaps the most likely next home for Carlson seems would be another conservative cable news network, such as Newsmax, or another major platform such as Spotify. His devoted, engaged audience is one that just about any network would be happy to snap up.

If Carlson moves to a mainstream platform, it is likely that he will continue to spread the same ideas and rhetoric that made his name on Fox. But given the mystery behind Carlson’s sudden departure, it seems plausible that new information about the TV host will arise that is so egregious no mainstream network will touch him.

His own platform

If Carlson either cannot or does not want to continue his show on another cable network or partner with a mainstream company, he could found his own platform, or form a following on a conservative alternative streaming platform such as Rumble, which hosts Trump’s Truth Social. Several far-right figures have taken this path — especially those who are considered largely untouchable by mainstream outlets, such as Nick Fuentes and Alex Jones, who founded the streaming site Cozy.tv. 

Building a user base is one of the main challenges for alternative sites; it is hard to port people over from their familiar routines of Facebook or cable, and platforms such as Truth Social or Gab have a much smaller audience than mainstream social media sites. Given Carlson’s high and engaged viewership, however, he would likely be able to take a large audience over to a new platform. 

Alternative sites generally appeal because of their lack of oversight or moderation, and, as a result, tend to breed extremism. While Carlson would likely still lose a large portion of his audience if he chose to join or invent an alternative network, those who did follow him over would likely be exposed to far more fringe, radical ideas and conspiracies than those Carlson himself endorses. While Carlson himself is rarely openly antisemitic, other people in the world of alternative social media sites do not demonstrate the same restraint, and his audience might be primed for more virulent hatred by the other creators Carlson would share space with.

A presidential bid

While there is, as of yet, no evidence that Carlson is planning to throw his hat in the ring for the presidential election, many online are speculating that Carlson stepped down in part to enter the race. 

If this were the case, Carlson’s proven charisma and ability to whip his audience into a fervor would likely gain him devoted supporters, though challenging Trump would be controversial to a portion of Carlson’s existing viewers. Still, it is hard to imagine a larger platform than the presidency — and even if Carlson did not win, his entrance into the race would likely be so splashy that he would be able to cultivate an even larger presence than he had in Fox’s primetime 8 p.m. slot.

Meanwhile, whoever Fox puts in Carlson’s old timeslot is likely to build influence quickly for whatever narrative they are promoting. After all, habits die hard — and turning on the news at 8 p.m. is a nighttime ritual in American living rooms across the country.

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