Two media industry bombs went off within minutes of each other on Monday, April 24, and two of the biggest names in the cable news business abruptly left their respective posts.
At Fox News, conservative culture warrior Tucker Carlson is out after dominating the channel’s primetime lineup for more than half a decade.
And at CNN, morning anchor Don Lemon’s tenure came to a sudden end despite his years as the face of the network’s New Year’s Eve celebration coverage.
Altogether, it was a shocking day of shakeups for the news business, compounded by the news late last week that its owners would close the Pulitzer-winning newsroom BuzzFeed News.
But why exactly did two of the most prominent (and highest-paid) TV newscasters leave the helm at what appears to be the height of their careers?
While the reasoning is still not entirely clear in Lemon’s case, one thing is certain: His departure from CNN was involuntary.
The longtime presenter revealed in a tweeted statement that he had been fired and company management refused to inform him personally; CNN has also not publicly commented on the reasoning.
In his statement, Lemon wrote that he was “stunned” to learn of his layoff and thanked his network colleagues for an “incredible career.” Shortly after his tweet, Lemon’s face and name were removed from the CNN website’s hosts and anchors list.
The former CNN host did not speculate on the exact reason for his firing, only suggesting that there were “bigger issues at play.”
But his ouster and earlier suspension came in the wake of comments he made on air about Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and current contender for the 2024 Republican nomination.
Describing the former UN ambassador under Donald Trump as “past her prime”, the former CNN anchor suggested that Republican voters would not seize on the theme of “new leadership in Washington” that Ms Haley’s campaign has promoted as his candidacy for the White Party. she started the house.
Lemon also had a contentious exchange on issues of race and gun control with Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy in recent days, during which he could be seen berating his producers for interrupting him; The entire exchange reportedly caused consternation among CNN leaders.
The initiates said The New York Times that the incident left “several CNN leaders exasperated.”
Earlier this month, Lemon was also accused of mistreating various colleagues throughout his career at CNN.
Several current or former employees said Variety about cases in which the popular host had been inappropriate with his co-workers, including Nancy Grace, Soledad O’Brien and Kyra Phillips, his former co-host on CNN’s “Live From.”
Lemon’s rep responded to the report by describing it as “15-year anonymous gossip,” while CNN said it had “not been able to corroborate the purported accounts.”
There were also said to have been off-air tensions between Lemon and co-host Kaitlin Collins following an incident in which he allegedly accused her of interrupting him.
In his Monday statement, Lemon wrote that “[a]No time [he] he never gave any indication” that he would not return to his normal duties at CNN as a result of the comments or for any other reason.
CNN rejected Lemon’s version of eventshowever.
“Don Lemon’s statement regarding the events of this morning is inaccurate. He was offered the opportunity to meet with management, but instead he issued a statement on Twitter.”
The case of Fox’s most popular driver is fascinating. While the terms of his departure are still unclear thanks to a vague statement released by the network explaining that the two parties had “agreed to part ways,” it seems likely that the departures of Carlson and his executive producer Justin Wells were, at least in in part, a direct result of the network’s $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, announced last week just as Fox’s defamation trial was scheduled to begin.
While trial was avoided, the court filings in the lead up proved embarrassing for the network, describing how Carlson and other top hosts promoted 2020 election conspiracies on their shows, while privately disagreeing with them in messages.
But beyond that, the filings also revealed that Carlson made negative comments about Fox bosses calling them “incompetent liberals.”
The executives were angered by Carlson’s “derogatory and disparaging comments” about them, according to The Wall Street Journal.
He Los Angeles Times reported shortly after the initial news of Carlson’s firing broke that the boot came directly at the behest of FoxCorp Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
vanity fair reported that the announcement came as a shock to Carlson, who was in the midst of contract negotiations to extend his term to 2029.
Then he received a sudden phone call from CEO Suzanne Scott on Monday morning telling him that he had been fired. The outlet further reported that Carlson told his colleagues that he believes the reason is related to an alleged desire by the Murdoch family to sell the company.
Other reports have indicated that his exit had more to do with the ongoing Fox News lawsuit filed by producer Abby Grossberg, a lawsuit that largely features Carlson.
Carlson had dominated the network’s primetime lineup as the host of its highest-rated show since 2016, when The O’Reilly Factor Host Bill O’Reilly left the channel under a cloud of news about settlements the network had reached with women who accused him of sexual misconduct.
Carlson’s acceptance of misinformation and outright lies about the 2020 election and Dominion’s machines, as well as those of the Trump campaign that promoted them, were cited in the embarrassing discovery phase of Dominion’s lawsuit as an example. of how Fox hosts were spreading claims they themselves knew to be false in the weeks after the election.
The move appeared to be very sudden, as Fox promos ran throughout Monday morning announcing the day’s next episode (featuring an interview with Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy) right up until the network announced his departure.