As Carlson and Lemon walk out, Cable’s chapter on Trump’s war ends


They were on different networks and did different things to get different ratings.

But Monday’s simultaneous exit of Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon from the cable news landscape signaled the end of an era for their industry — the most militant and partisan since Ted Turner introduced the concept of 24-hour news on more than 40 television stations at 24. years ago. .

No equivalence can be established between the two hosts. Mr. Carlson has often done ratings on Fox News by telling stories of white nationalists and fake conspiracies, making him his group. Mr. Lemon was known for his anti-Trump comments, which were relatively tame and drew far fewer ratings, but sounded pretty hot by CNN standards.

But Mr. Carlson and Mr. Lemon, in their latest appearances, were products of the Trump years — often making headlines by expressing anger and rage at their audiences.

Now, in different ways, their ouster represents a temporary retreat from the media overload that Trump’s election, presidency, and post-presidency have created.

“There was a race on most mainstream channels to be the first to condemn Trump to highlight his problems,” said Stephen F. Hayes, founder of the conservative website The Dispatch. “And on Fox, especially in prime time, there was an effort to protect him and reinforce his lies.”

Mr. Hayes, who quit as an analyst at Fox after Mr. Carlson promoted conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, said optimistically: “Hopefully, this is one type of broader institutional change.

Questions remain about the specifics of the two editions, and both cases involve factors other than their general editorial approach.

Mr. Carlson became a disgraced figure last week thanks to the extensive filing of a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox that settled at the eleventh hour for $787.5 million.

Emails and text messages released before the trial showed that Mr. Carlson mocked Mr. Trump, even as he congratulated him on his program and used vulgar, misogynistic language about Sidney Powell, a lawyer who pushed polls on Dominion’s voting machines. Carlson’s former booking manager, Abby Grossberg, accuses Mr. Carlson and his team of making similar slurs about women in another lawsuit in Delaware. According to Ms. Grossberg, this behavior, which created a toxic work environment, seemed to have as much of an impact on her termination as anything else.

Mr. Lemon’s ouster came after he made a sexist and ageist remark on CNN’s Morning Show that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was not “at her peak” because, he said, “a woman is considered to be in her 20s, 30s and 40s. The statement was highly offensive in every way. But from a television perspective, it veered into radical sin territory—it threatened to alienate a significant audience demographic. Although Mr. Lemon apologized, the network ultimately concluded that his future was no longer viable.

But none of these situations are visible outside of where men stand on the shifting patches of cable news terra firma.

Mr. Lemon has worked in a new environment at CNN, where the network’s new president, Chris Licht, has said he wants to shave off what he sees as the more partisan edges that emerged during the Trump years. As Mr. Licht told advertisers last season: “In an age where extremes dominate cable news, we’re looking for a different path.” CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. That’s also a priority for Discovery CEO David Zaslav, even if it means lower ratings and, therefore, less revenue. “Ratings be damned,” he said.

Mr. Licht moved Mr. Lemon from his 10 p.m. show last year and named him co-host of CNN’s Breakfast Show. “CNN This Morning” was positioned as a lighter, more conversational and less edgy program than the one Mr. Lemon was fired from.

Still, it wasn’t really necessary. “Don Lemon is a lightning rod, because he really became famous at a time when the holidays are celebrated and encouraged,” Mr. Licht admitted at a press conference organized by Semafor earlier this month. “CNN has moved on and Don has moved on.” Now CNN has moved on from Don.

The signal is a little less clear from Fox News. The network and its bosses, Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch, have supported Mr. Carlson for years as he is widely accused of spreading false and racist conspiracy theories, which has earned him such a tirade from many Trump loyalists.

They seemed to be doing it for one main reason – high ratings and the huge amount of money he was doing it with. Even as Dominion’s trial appeared to be in full swing before the trial, Mr. Carlson doubled down on releasing reports that described the Jan. 6 attack as a largely peaceful incident. That signaled a ratings win for Fox even amid the threat of a major lawsuit.

After settling with Dominion last week, Fox faced the unanswered question of whether the experience of that case was enough to stop Fox News from airing false and misleading content. In the plot that gave Dominion such a strong hand at court. .

The abrupt end to Mr. Carlson’s run at Fox News may not mean a broader failure is on the horizon — indeed, there are mixed signs to the contrary. But its exclusion from Fox’s prime time slot is a setback in itself, and a significant one at that.

Again, over the past 40 years, cable news has moved toward ever more rigid programming and personalities in its perpetual quest for audience and relevance. The exits of Mr. Carlson and Mr. Lemon may mark the end of an era in cable news. But if Fox and CNN can’t resist the siren call of Mr. Trump’s eye-catching manipulation in the ratings chase, who’s to say what’s really going to happen next?


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