After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Fox News — to the surprise of many, including founder Rupert Murdoch, who loathed Trump — became more successful than it had ever been in its already very profitable history. It had survived not only the loss of its longtime boss Roger Ailes, ousted the same year in a sexual-harassment scandal, but that of its former ratings leader Bill O’Reilly in another harassment scandal and that of Megyn Kelly, the anchor who the Murdochs had hoped might lead the network to a not-so-right-wing future.
Now President Trump was its star, a change so big that it demanded a reshuffling of the prime-time lineup. Sean Hannity, the former ratings laggard who had revived his career with an unquestioning devotion to Trump — and emerged as one of Trump’s inner-circle advisers — was given the 9 p.m. slot in a sop to MAGA world. But the biggest change was that Murdoch gave Tucker Carlson, a former magazine journalist who had served unremarkable tenures as a host at both CNN and MSNBC, an 8 p.m. anchor slot.
Murdoch made the unexpected move because he believed Carlson to be a moderate Republican who could be a counterweight — someone who could pull Fox away from reflexive Trumpism. The opposite happened: Carlson became a firebrand of the new Trump order and cable television’s ratings winner. The two men, Trump and Carlson, were suddenly the pillars of the post-Ailes network, and there was not much that even Murdoch could do about it. [Continue reading…]