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Tucker Carlson’s Fox News ouster dismays GOP

Tucker Carlson’s abrupt departure from Fox News sent shockwaves through Republican circles on Monday, with some of some of his biggest fans and political allies jumping to his defense despite there being no clear explanation for his exit.

Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), some of the staunchest conservatives in the House, were among those who tweeted that they “stand” with Carlson as some Republicans worried about the direction of Fox News, which had already seen viewers turn against them in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

“He was the boldest they had! This is a big loss for Fox,” tweeted Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). 

But for Republicans who disagreed with his populist and sometimes conspiratorial bent – let alone those who were the target of it – the surprise of Carlson’s exit was met with a sense of satisfaction.

“Good riddance,” said one GOP staffer. “He just spewed nonsense to millions of people and it had broad ramifications for discourse in our party.”

Critics think loss of a primetime Fox News slot could also cause a hit to Carlson’s credibility, but still expect him to retain a level of influence.

“He was a really annoying headache that might become less of a headache,” said the GOP staffer said.

Whether he was praising and boosting their positions or mocking and destroying them, Carlson’s top-rated primetime show was an inescapable force for Republicans. 

A positive mention on Carlson’s show could turn into a fundraising email and highlight reel, while a negative one could prompt a wave of angry constituent phone calls and full-blown crisis communications protocol.

Carlson’s willingness to attack Republicans on everything from their support for Ukraine to their position on Jan. 6 was a key part of his appeal for his fans.

“It changes things permanently. That’s one of the few voices in the Republican party that would call out the nonsense from GOP senators, governors, and otherwise,” Donald Trump Jr. said on Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk’s show on Monday.

“It’s actually mind-blowing to me,” Trump Jr. added about Carlson’s departure.

Republicans who disagreed with him and chose to engage had on-screen clashes with Carlson. Last year, he argued with former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on vetoing a bill to limit access to gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender youth. And he sparred with Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) over Ukraine and immigration.

Carlson’s downplaying of the severity of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and nodding to the false theory that federal agents helped incite the violence became a defining feature of his show – and major influence on the right.

“I owe a lot to Tucker. Tucker Carlson gave me a platform to defend myself against the attacks from the January 6 committee when they first subpoenaed me,” said Alex Bruesewitz, a Trump-aligned Republican strategist. “He was the only anchor at Fox who was willing to discuss the political persecution of Trump and his allies. And that’s gonna be a big blow to people who care about truth and honesty and justice in this country.”

But other Republican strategists – though they have little incentive to say so publicly – saw Carlson’s aggressive attacks on Republicans and his flirtation with conspiracy theories and extremists as a contributing factor in Republican electoral challenges.

“Mr. Carlson emboldened and empowered some of the worst actors on the far right and as a result, Republicans have lost numerous winnable elections these last few cycles,” another GOP operative lamented.

Still, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) – who Carlson had once criticized as a puppet of the Democratic Party – granted Carlson exclusive first access to security footage from Jan. 6, a move that acknowledged the Fox News host’s unmatched influence on the right. 

“Tucker Carlson Tonight” acted at times as a one-stop shop to get an important message out in the conservative ecosystem. 

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and George Santos (R-N.Y.) each joined the show when they were in the midst of allegations about their personal lives. In recent weeks, both entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and radio host Larry Elder launched Republican presidential primary bids with appearances on his show.

While Carlson is leaving Fox News, neither his Republican fans nor critics expect his influence to vanish – and are waiting to see his next move.

“Tucker is the most successful, insightful, and courageous commentator of our time. More Americans look to him for guidance on the pressing issues of the day than any politician, including President Biden,” said a conservative strategist. “His voice will not be lost. I expect we will see him again very soon and better than ever.”

Tags Andy Biggs Tucker Carlson

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