Politics & Media
Apr 25, 2023, 06:28AM

Tucker Carlson and Me

Missing Bill O'Reilly and the show that Tucker Carlson replaced.

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It required acceptance for me when Fox News let Bill O’Reilly go and replaced him with Tucker Carlson. I was an enthusiastic Factor watcher, had purchased and read many of O’Reilly’ books, and had met him at an event in Portland. Though he was East Coast and I was West, there was a convergence of just about everything that constitutes why certain media figures speak to us: age, values, cultural milieu, delivery, and contextual referencing. O'Reilly’s purview reminded me of my father, in a media landscape largely devoid of unreconstructed patriarchs. And the show was damn good.

While I’d liked Carlson as a contributor, and sometimes guest host for Hannity’s show, it wasn’t the same. It was less like watching a conservative father-figure and more like tuning in to see what a snappy nephew had to offer. What made the 2017 switch from O’Reilly to Carlson more of a bummer was the fact that Donald Trump had won the presidency. I’d looked forward to a wonderful four-year symbiosis of Trump and O’Reilly.

But I stuck around; as Rupert Murdoch well knew, there was nowhere else for conservative broadcast viewers to go. Hannity became the place to go to get what most cable news viewers seek, debate with subsequent validation and affirmation of ideologies.

Then came 2020’s election night. It wasn’t so much the early Arizona call that soured me. It was the general demeanor of the coverage: something had changed. While Trump was going down, there wasn't in the reportage the appropriate gravity. In my world, Trump’s loss was a disaster. I couldn’t have known that the network was in the incipient stages of moving on from Trump, but my gut-instinct switch to a then little-known channel called Newsmax was immediate, and I never looked back. In the intervening two years and four months since November 2020, except for snippets that appear on YouTube, I haven’t watched Fox News. I still listen to Hannity and Mark Levin on the radio.

Recently on his online show The No Spin News, O’Reilly was asked in a viewer email if he thought that Fox News’ abandonment of Trump—which was real—and this new paradigm of coverage as the nation runs up to 2024, would cause them to lose ratings. O’Reilly admitted that he didn’t know.

My reaction to the email was to reflect that the Fox move away from Trump is old news for dedicated conservative media viewers. The former home of Carlson, and still-home for Trump supporters like Hannity, Ingraham, Jeanine Pero, and Jesse Watters never lost its perch atop the ratings heap. I surmised that those who had revolted against the 2020 Trump/Fox dissolution had to a large extent already departed the network in favor of Newsmax.

Therefore, Fox News probably wouldn’t fall in the ratings, even in light of the network’s move away from Trump. Everyone who was going to jump ship, already had.

Now there’s Tucker Carlson’s ousting. Carlson has become the most popular host at Fox since The O’Reilly Factor was cancelled.


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