Following his departure from Fox News, Tucker Carlson remains under a non-compete contract with his former employer, sidelining him from starting or joining a competitor company until January 2025. However, it seems Tucker and a group of his media confidants are plotting a way to force Fox News into nixing this clause in his contract and letting him go entirely. According to sources close to Tucker, the man seems poised to start a Bill O’Reilly-type direct-to-consumer media outlet that could take on Fox News directly.
By Mike Allen; May 7, 2023
Tucker Carlson is preparing to unleash allies to attack Fox News in an effort to bully the network into letting him work for — or start — a right-wing rival, sources close to him tell Axios.
- Bryan Freedman, the high-powered Hollywood lawyer Carlson retained for the contract dispute, told Axios: “The idea that anyone is going to silence Tucker and prevent him from speaking to his audience is beyond preposterous.”
Why it matters: Tucker vs. Fox could reshape the conservative news world. Fox, which has seen its ratings plunge in Carlson’s slot since he was let go 13 days ago, wants to sideline him by paying him $20 million a year not to work.
The intrigue: Axios has learned Carlson is busy plotting a media empire of his own. But he needs Fox to let him out of his contract, which expires in January 2025 — after the presidential election.
- We’re told Carlson has been contacted by outlets — including the right-wing Rumble and Newsmax — that offered to pay him more than his Fox contract.
Behind the scenes: Axios has learned that Carlson and Elon Musk had a conversation about working together, but didn’t discuss specifics.
- Carlson confidants say he also is contemplating building a direct-to-consumer media outlet where his millions of fans could pay to watch him. Carlson’s predecessor in his Fox slot, Bill O’Reilly, created a blueprint for this.
- Two days after being booted, Carlson teased in a Twitter video posted at 8 p.m. ET, counter-programming his former show: “See you soon.” The two-minute video has racked up 24 million views.
State of play: The ousted host “knows where a lot of bodies are buried, and is ready to start drawing a map,” said a Carlson source who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
- Carlson allies with big platforms are prepared to attack Fox for trying to keep him on the shelf.
- Bare-knuckle brawlers from Trumpworld are standing by.
“They’re coming to him and saying: ‘Do you want me to hit Fox?’ ” a close Carlson friend said. “He’s been saying: ‘No. I want to get this done quiet and clean.’ “
- “Now, we’re going from peacetime to Defcon 1,” the friend added. “His team is preparing for war. He wants his freedom.”
- In a sign of what could be coming, Megyn Kelly hit her former employer for its post-Carlson ratings by tweeting a reference to conservative attacks on Bud Light: “My audience is calling them #Foxweiser.”
The other side: Fox News directed Axios to the network’s statement when Fox and Carlson “agreed to part ways”: “We thank him for his service to the network.”
Several embarrassing revelations have surfaced about Carlson from the files of the settled Dominion Voting Systems case against Fox — including his use of an obscenity about women, and a text message in which he said about a street attack: “It’s not how white men fight.”
- Carlson’s camp said his media suitors have gotten more aggressive about following up on their offers — viewing him as all the hotter.
Go deeper: Fox asks Dominion to probe leaks of Carlson messages.
- Sara Fischer contributed reporting.