Fox warns Tucker Carlson to stop posting videos on Twitter
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Tucker Carlson was fired from Fox News, but he's still sharing his opinions.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Yeah, he's got a new show on Twitter named Tucker on Twitter.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TUCKER CARLSON: But what about voters? What are they learning from this spectacle? Well, mostly they're learning that they have no power at all because nobody cares about them.
MARTÍNEZ: His latest video has more than 80 million views. Fox is warning Carlson, though, to knock it off because he's still under contract with them until 2025.
FADEL: NPR's David Folkenflik joins us to talk about the battle brewing between these two conservative media powerhouses. Good morning, David.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Morning, Leila.
FADEL: So what are these videos that Carlson's posting on Twitter?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, they're awfully similar to the monologues that used to kick off his prime time show on Fox News itself. On Tuesday, he did sort of this scattershot attack. But really, he was focusing mostly on the arraignment of former President Donald Trump over possession of classified materials. Carlson presented it not just as a prosecution but a persecution, saying President Joe Biden and the Washington establishment had it in for him because of his stance against the Iraq war during the Republican presidential primaries in 2016. I think it's worth pointing out Trump really didn't come out against the invasion of Iraq until it started to turn pretty unpopular.
FADEL: OK. So like you said, it sounds a lot like his show on Fox. And he's still under contract with Fox. So how does he get to do this?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, according to Fox, he doesn't. The specter of litigation hangs over all of this. Fox had basically fired Carlson, which is to say it canceled his show after settling this huge defamation suit for nearly $800 million over bogus claims of election fraud in the 2020 race. Carlson has also been sued, along with Fox News, for a hostile work environment by a former senior producer who alleged his show was rife with bigotry and sexism and apparently has dozens of audio recordings to make her case. And Fox News itself has gone pretty quiet about those allegations at the moment. The real question is, does Fox want to go to war with a figure who's so popular among its audience? Fox says, look; he's still under contract until the beginning of 2025, which puts him after the 2024 race. And we're paying him, so he's got to shut up. Fox has had real consequences by firing him, however. It's lost about a third of its viewers in prime time. MSNBC for the first time in almost two years beat Fox in prime-time viewers last week. And that's a real blow to Fox.
FADEL: OK, so that's Fox's perspective. But clearly, Carlson doesn't see what he's doing as wrong since he's posting the videos. How does he justify it?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, lawyers claim that Fox has sought to hurt his reputation by leaking damaging things publicly and have claimed that they've already violated his contract. They also say he has the First Amendment right to speak. Let's not forget, Elon Musk, the controlling owner of Twitter, says Carlson's videos are a model for people on the right and left. It's not compensated directly by Twitter. And it's not exclusive to Twitter. In the meantime, it's fascinating to see Carlson not only take shots at the establishment and others among conservatives, but at former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan twice in his video last night. Ryan, of course, a corporate director of parent company Fox Corp.
FADEL: OK, so where does this fight between Fox and Carlson go from here?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, if you take literally what's playing out, it looks like it's headed to court. Neither side should want that. They've both been damaged by all these revelations in that earlier defamation suit I mentioned. But Carlson really wants a voice in this upcoming presidential cycle and to keep the influence he's built over the years. And Fox really wants to sideline him and to get their viewers back onside. The question is, who gives up first? Or who gives up enough to come to terms before this actually goes to court?
FADEL: NPR's David Folkenflik. Thank you.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.