I hate to find happiness in the misfortune of others… oh, screw that. The news that Fox fired racist misognyist authoritarian Tucker Carlson, its top-rated host, makes me very happy indeed. I know they’ll replace him with someone comparably monstrous. But Carlson is a uniquely awful monster, and his departure is good news for truth, democracy—and women.
The immediate reaction to the news: This must be another shoe falling in the wake of the network’s massive $787 million settlement of the lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems. Pretrial discovery featured a ton of incriminating, embarrassing texts from Tucker, which swung wildly between trashing Donald Trump—“I hate him passionately”—and trying to get Fox colleagues fired for telling the truth about Trump’s stolen-election lies. The Washington Post reported that his texts included harsh criticism of Fox management. Probably in his favor, at least to Rupert Murdoch, were texts showing that he was worried about the fall in the company’s stock price after it declared Biden the legitimate election winner and (occasionally) debunked Trump lies.
But when the news broke, my mind went immediately to another lawsuit against Fox, from Carlson’s former producer Abby Grossberg. Two lawsuits, in fact. Not only did she claim she was set up by Fox’s lawyers to dissemble (at minimum) in her Dominion deposition and possibly take the fall for the network’s lies; she also charged the network, and Carlson, with fostering a gruesomely sexist “toxic workplace.”
“Women were objectified,” she told NBC News last month. “It was a game. It was a sport. Female politicians who came on the show were mocked. There were debates about who they’d rather sleep with. C-word all the time.” Carlson had festooned his offices with a poster of then–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a bikini, Grossberg’s lawsuit claimed.
“I reached a breaking point where the harassment was so bad that I called a crisis line. I thought I could just walk in front of a car and I wouldn’t have to go to work tomorrow,” Grossberg said.
“She was subject to one of the most vile, toxic work environments I’ve seen in my 30 years of practice,” Grossberg’s attorney told MSNBC on Friday. “C-word…was bandied about like hello.”
Carlson’s departure was announced on the next business day. Any connection? Only women’s intuition.
Why do I find Grossberg’s workplace misogyny claims easy to believe? Because, as I’ve written before, Carlson called me the C-word in an interview with a Salon intern, back when I was editor in chief, in 2010.
I wound up writing about that only because Media Matters unearthed some old audio from when Carlson used to phone in to the radio show Bubba the Love Sponge, where he spewed misogynistic idiocy and, of course, used the C-word. The Washington Post’s Eric Wemple wrote about it all here.
That creepy encounter with Carlson just made me realize how broken he is, so broken that a part of me thinks I should work harder at empathy. But Carlson’s racism and misogyny have hurt millions of people. He cheered Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder of three people in Kenosha, Wis.; he’s gone to Hungary to broadcast his show with autocrat Viktor Orbán; he is a nightly font of white supremacist nonsense. A Trump fluffer for years, after his anti-Trump texts surfaced in the Dominion case, Carlson had TFG on for an hour-long sycophantic sit-down. He is the definition of toxic masculinity, or maybe masculinity in terminal crisis. Or maybe those are the same things? Remember, he promoted “testicle tanning” as a means of boosting testosterone levels in his sad Fox Nation special The End of Men.
He’ll have plenty of time for testicle tanning now.
I don’t know for sure that Grossberg’s suit was what pushed Carlson out. The Los Angeles Times reports that it played a big role, as did Carlson’s utterly bogus reporting on the January 6 insurrection, particularly his attacks on Ray Epps, a private citizen who joined the Capitol protest (but didn’t enter the building), who Carlson claimed was an FBI agent provocateur. The Washington Post reports that it also had to do with his disparaging texts about management uncovered in the Dominion discovery.
Is this the end of Tucker? Probably not. These assholes generally land on their feet, at least somewhere they can make money. His predecessor, the awful Bill O’Reilly, brought down by serial sexual harassment, didn’t turn up as a television anchor again but got a radio gig and still writes books. He’s fine. Financially, anyway; like Carlson he was never fine emotionally. I also had a sexist wrangle with O’Reilly as it happens. You may remember it.
Fox founder Roger Ailes, on the other hand, never recovered from his ouster—coincidentally (not), also over serial sexual harassment—and died shortly after leaving Fox. Oh, yeah—I was insulted by Ailes, too. Weird.
Fox tried to spin Carlson’s departure as an amiable parting of the ways. “We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor,” the network’s brief statement said. Don’t be fooled. Carlson’s last words at the end of his show Friday were “We’ll be back on Monday” (h/t Aaron Rupar). Mediaite reports, “It was a firing,” elaborating: “He was totally surprised. He had no idea,” according to one source.
Clearly, Tucker didn’t see this coming. Maybe that’s merciful. I don’t know. I’m glad he’s gone from the airwaves, at least for now. He’s younger than Ailes and O’Reilly, so it might give him time to regroup and do more evil. But we get a reprieve, for now.