The Tension Inside Fox News Over Tucker Carlson’s Extremism Is Real
There appears to be quite a bit of tension inside Fox News over the extremist views of the network’s most popular host. Host Bret Baier publicly admitted on Monday that there were internal “concerns” at the network about the Tucker Carlson-produced documentary, Patriot Purge. The controversial documentary suggested Jan. 6 was a “false flag” operation and aired on the network’s streaming platform.
During a recent interview on fellow Fox News host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show, Baier seemed a bit uncomfortable when Kilmeade asked about two network contributors, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, who resigned in protest over the network’s choice to air Patriot Purge on its streaming service, Fox Nation, this month. “I think it was a tough choice [to resign] but one that they made on principle,” Baier said of their resignations, per Mediaite. “You know, and I’m going to let them speak for themselves,” he added, going on to say their departures were “sad” for his show, Special Report, and for the network.
According to reporting from NPR’s David Folkenflik, both Baier and anchor Chris Wallace shared their objections to the documentary internally with Fox News executives, and those concerns reached Lachlan Murdoch, who leads the network’s parent company, Fox Corp.
Kilmeade, ever a lapdog to the far-right, said he had watched the documentary and thought it gave an “interesting perspective.” He also mocked others’ objections to it. “I didn’t get hurt by it,” he said. “I didn’t get damaged by it.”
“Were you bothered by it?” he asked Baier. “Because that’s the reporting.”
“There’s a … Brian, I don’t want to go down this road,” Baier responded, sounding slightly bothered by the question. “There were concerns about it, definitely. I think the news division did what we do, I mean, we covered the story. I wanted to do all of that internally. Steve and Jonah made their decision, and it’s their decision.”
Ben Smith of The New York Times broke the news Sunday of the contributors’ resignations. “Whether it’s Patriot Purge or anti-vaxx stuff, I don’t want it in my name, and I want to call it out and criticize it,” Goldberg told the Times in explaining his decision to leave the network. “I don’t want to feel like I am betraying a trust that I had by being a Fox News contributor. And I also don’t want to be accused of not really pulling the punches. And then this was just an untenable tension for me.”
Describing the documentary to NPR reporter David Folkenflick, Goldberg said, “It’s basically saying that the Biden regime is coming after half the country and this is the War on Terror 2.0. It traffics in all manner of innuendo and conspiracy theories that I think legitimately could lead to violence. That for me, and for Steve, was the last straw.”
“I thought it was irresponsible to put that out into the public airwaves,” Hayes told Folkenflik.
But Jan. 6 isn’t the only issue where Fox’s opinion and news divisions have appeared divided. On Monday, Fox News correspondent Gillian Turner said on the network that Kyle Rittenhouse was “not a hero.”
“This case is particularly tragic because Kyle may have been acquitted, but he’s not a hero here,” Turner said on air, according to The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona. “There are no heroes and there are no winners. There is no victory lap for Kyle or anybody else to take.”
Hours later, Rittenhouse took a just such a victory lap, appearing in a primetime interview with Tucker Carlson on the network, where the host praised him as a “sweet kid.” Tucker Carlson Originals has also produced a documentary on Rittenhouse which will stream on Fox Nation, just as Patriot Purge did. “During the course of our long conversation, Kyle Rittenhouse struck us as bright, decent, sincere, dutiful, and hardworking,” Carlson said in introducing his interview with Rittenhouse. “[He’s] exactly the kind of person would you want many more of in your country.”