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Fox News’ recent firing/sidelining of the number one rated cable news host, Tucker Carlson, sent shockwaves throughout the political and media landscape. Perhaps the only subject of more aggressive speculation than the circumstances surrounding Tucker’s surprising departure from Fox is the question of what comes next for the former number one cable news host. To say that this is the $64,000 question is correct metaphorically, but literally off by close to an order of magnitude.
While we will spare Tucker the unsolicited advice as to what his broader plans should be, a recent piece in the Washington Post of all places suggests that Tucker is already working on a bold and ingenious next step — hosting the upcoming GOP Presidential primary debates:
Lesser-known cable channels are itching to build a new brand around him. Industry experts think he could make a mint in podcasting.
But Tucker Carlson — who was fired by Fox News last week at the height of his popularity and influence in right-wing punditry — has aspirations of moving into a larger role that doesn’t limit him to a single medium, according to people familiar with his thinking. And he is willing to walk away from some of the millions that Fox is contractually obligated to pay him, if that would give him the flexibility to have a prominent voice in the 2024 election cycle.
Most ambitiously, Carlson wants to moderate his own GOP candidate forum, outside of the usual strictures of the Republican National Committee debate system.
The idea, which he has discussed with Donald Trump, the front-runner for the party nomination, would test his vaunted sway over conservative politics. And it would take a jab at his former employer — Fox is hosting the first official primary debate, which Trump has threatened not to attend — if he can manage to make his grandest plan happen.
Make no mistake: strategically, politically, professionally, hosting the a major GOP primary debate or forum is the winning move for Tucker Carlson and for the country.
Let’s start by analyzing the move in relation to Tucker. While we may never know the full story surrounding Tucker’s ouster from Fox, it is inarguable that the decision came from the very top, that is, from Rupert Murdoch. The dramatic decision on the part of Fox to so abruptly and unceremoniously defenestrate their most popular host betrays an underlying sense that from Murdoch’s perspective, it is ultimately the Fox News platform that is the star, and the talent is ultimately expendable and interchangeable. From the Murdoch’s perspective, this is an especially important message to send to other hosts as the network works to restore the top-down message discipline that prevailed under the Roger Ailes era.
If the fallout from Tucker’s dismissal hasn’t caused Fox to reconsider the expendability of its top talent, it should. The overwhelming deluge of support and good will Tucker has received since his separation from Fox confirms his special status as far more than an incredibly popular cable news host, and solidifies his position as a rare figure of national significance, whose devoted following and political influence on the right is second only to President Trump. This, and the dismal ratings Fox has to show for itself in Tucker’s absence, is a strong point in favor of the view that Tucker, not the Fox News platform, was the star after all.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 5, 2023
Be that as it may, we must give the devil its due and concede the special role the Fox News primetime television platform played in force-multiplying Tucker’s unique political influence. However rapidly independent and digital media platforms are growing, and however much we would love to pronounce mainstream television dead, there is simply no denying that primetime cable television retains special magic and legitimacy when it comes to the public. Megyn Kelly put it best in a recent podcast with Glenn Beck, in which she addressed the question of whether and in what way Tucker’s influence might change in his post-Fox career. Kelly and Beck both agreed that Tucker could make more money post-Fox and even expand his reach in many respects. Kelly did, however, acknowledge that there was a special kind of influence Tucker wielded over elected Republican officials that would be difficult to reproduce without the magic of primetime television, and perhaps without the special clout Fox News has with the GOP.
In a sad situation in which GOP elected officials or hopefuls would only do the right thing with a metaphorical gun to their heads, Tucker’s was the one voice capable and willing to hold the politician’s feet to the fire and implement some measure of real accountability before a national audience. Joe Rogan may have the widest reach in terms of his audience, but Rogan couldn’t put the fear of God into GOP politicians and political hopefuls the way Tucker Carlson Tonight could. While this particular sort of influence is a special component of Tucker’s unique brand, it is also the element of influence that will be most difficult to maintain without the assistance of a Fox News primetime television slot.
This is precisely why hosting a GOP primary debate is the perfect next move for Tucker. In general, it is the perfect move for Tucker in terms of preserving his special political influence post-Fox. In particular, there is no better way to humble Fox News and demonstrate that Tucker’s voice and the millions of Americans it represents are more important than Fox News the corporation. Indeed, imagine the statement it would make for Tucker, rather than his former employer Fox News, to host the first GOP debate.
As things stand, the overwhelming front-runner for the GOP nomination, President Donald Trump, is reluctant to participate in the Republican debates — and for good reason.
Currently, the RNC has announced that Fox News will get the first debate and will likely get more, while CNN and NBC will also likely get debates as well.
According to the New York Times, Trump was hesitant to engage on Fox because “Mr. Trump’s overall relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s television network has deteriorated as the network showered Mr. DeSantis with praise over the past two years while constricting its coverage of Mr. Trump.” This is an understatement. The Murdoch-owned New York Post puts on headlines like “DeFuture” while the network has an official “soft ban” on Trump. This is a repeat from 2015 when Murdoch tried to knee-cap Trump at the first debate, a move Trump brilliantly deflected with his legendary “Only Rosie O’Donnell” line.
Given Fox’s disgraceful firing of Tucker Carlson, conservatives have more reasons than ever to be concerned about a Fox Debate.
And beyond Fox, no America First Republican would want NBC or CNN to dictate the terms of the debate over who gets the GOP nomination. Ron DeSantis has long urged Republicans to stop legitimizing the mainstream media by giving them dominant coverage, saying, “I don’t need to be involved with some of the partisan corporate media.” Even Tim Scott has said the debates should be on conservative networks, tweeting, “I’m calling for conservatives to hear from our leaders without the media’s biased filter.”
Today’s media is too often an extension of the far Left.
I’m calling for conservatives to hear from our leaders without the media’s biased filter.https://t.co/2xOxfrNxOL
— Tim Scott (@votetimscott) March 10, 2023
In an attempt to preempt this concern, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel has made an agreement with Rumble to stream the First Debate, which is admittedly a great idea. Less encouraging is Ronna’s decision to pick “Conservatism Inc.” institutions to “co-sponsor” each debate. The first co-sponsor is the Young America’s Foundation. As McDaniel told Fox & Friends, “the Young America’s Foundation… is run by Scott Walker… They’re based in Wisconsin, so they’re going to be a partner as well.”
While YAF works with some solid speakers, it is correctly viewed as a establishment and anti-Trump. Its star speaker is Mike Pence. As Steve Bannon wrote on GETTR, “YAF is Never Trump and Pro Pence… How did RNC do this…”
The RNC has chosen a pro-Mike Pence 501c3 to host a debate. Just wait until you hear about the CNN debates they’re lining up…. Didn’t think it could actually get worse by getting out of the commission, but I think this may end up making the base hate the RNC even more https://t.co/ALU2oPofc0
— Tyler Bowyer (@tylerbowyer) April 12, 2023
This all brings us back to the original and brilliant solution: Tucker Carlson should host a debate. Carlson is by far the most popular voice among Republican voters, and he would raise the important questions about foreign policy, civil liberties, and national identity that the other networks would rather avoid. It’s safe to say that this race is pretty much between Trump and DeSantis, and Tucker has been largely positive, with a few criticisms, of both candidates.
We don’t know when Tucker will get out of his Fox contract or exactly what he will do next, but we could imagine this debate taking place on a Twitter stream as the company continues to upgrade its video platform, on a conservative network like NewsMax or OAN, or on a new platform if Tucker launches one.
Tucker Carlson is more trusted among GOP voters than Fox News, much less CNN or NBC. Any candidate – whether it’s Trump, DeSantis, or even Tim Scott – who wants to prove they are serious about standing up to the corporate media should call for a Tucker debate. And if the RNC wants to respond to the concerns about letting left-wing media control our nomination, this is a perfect opportunity. Simply put, Tucker hosting a GOP debate would be a win for Tucker, a win for America First, a win for the GOP, and a win for the country. Let’s make it happen.