Tucker Carlson, one of Fox News Channel’s most-watched hosts, said he would take a pre-planned vacation as his primetime program comes under intense scrutiny.
Carlson announced his plans Monday in the wake of a new controversy surrounding his program, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” after a CNN report last week revealed one of his top writers, Blake Neff, had posted racist and misogynist remarks over a long period on an online forum, AutoAdmit, largely used by law students. That staffer resigned from Fox News, and the network’s top executives condemned his postings over the weekend.
“We don’t endorse those words,” Carlson said. “They have no connection to the show. It is wrong to attack people for qualities they cannot control.” But he also chastised those who might take delight in the matter, criticizing “the ghouls now beating their chests” over “the destruction of a young man.” He told viewers: “When we pose as blameless in order to hurt other people, we are committing the gravest sin of all.”
It is not the first time a Fox News host has taken a few days off after a heated contretemps erupted around their program. Carlson in August 2019 announced he would take a short vacation after he made remarks about white supremacy being a “hoax.” Laura Ingraham in March 2018 said she would take a short break from her primetime program, “The Ingraham Angle,” after posting tweets making fun of David Hogg, a former student at Florida’s Parkland High School who survived a mass shooting incident there. And Bill O’Reilly in April of 2017 informed viewers he was taking a few days off as controversy swirled around reports detailing settlements the former host had made with five women. At the time, advertisers were pulling out of his show. O’Reilly never returned to the Fox News schedule.
Carlson said Neff “was horrified by the story, and he was ashamed,” but acknowledged the former staffer “has paid a very heavy price.”
The host has, since taking the 8 p.m. slot at Fox News Channel in November of 2016, carved a unique path. He has continued to capture more viewers who have enjoyed seeing him transform from a liberal-baiter in the earliest days of the program to a maverick commentator who might one day castigate President Trump and on another find his musings being retweeted by the top resident of the White House. But as he has done so, Carlson has made disparaging remarks about immigrants and immigration, leading many to criticize him for the way he talks about racial and cultural differences – and protest to those who might do business with Fox News.
His program has lost mainstream national advertisers, and often runs largely accompanied by direct-response commercials as well as promos from Fox News and its sister properties. On Monday night, the preceding program, “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” was accompanied by ads from financial-services giant USAA and Audi. Carlson’s program featured multiple ads for the direct-response retailer MyPillow as well as the Fox Nation streaming service.
The CNN report highlighted a number of comments and responses to threads with offensive themes that Neff made over a prolonged period of time under the pseudonym Charles XII. Neff had previously been a staffer at The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion site that Carlson co-founded and to which he sold his stake last month.
The Fox News executives characterized Neff’s contributions to the site as “horrendous and deeply offensive,” and noted that “Neff’s abhorrent conduct on this forum was never divulged to the show or the network until Friday, at which point we swiftly accepted his resignation. Make no mistake, actions such as his cannot and will not be tolerated at any time in any part of our work force.”
Brian Kilmeade, the “Fox & Friends” co-anchor, will fill in for Carlson for the next four days. Carlson told viewers he expected to be off for the next four broadcasts and return to his chair on Monday.