Monday, April 24, 2023 wasn’t a twofer, there was another major story that was buried under news of the firings of Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon: President Biden is sending American troops to Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Sudan. In another display of pathological war-mongering, our country continues to run guns to anyone that will pay, and the government is at the mercy of an arms industry too shortsighted to realize that “endless" wars are just going to drain their main supplier dry. Do most Americans know we have troops in Ukraine? Maybe that one was “soft-rolled out” sometime last year. More machinations of the forces that actually determine the direction, if not the destiny, of the United States.
But nobody cared about that on Monday, because not only was cable news’ hottest host canned without the grace of a goodbye, but so was Don Lemon, a bizarre figure who I first wrote about 13 years ago: “Don Lemon reads the news from his prompter with the staccato cadence of a broken DVD player. He trips over words, misplaces emphasis, and often makes bizarre mistakes that betray his frayed circuitry. Lemon’s antiquated CPU must’ve skipped a beat when he referred to A Clockwork Orange as the movie ‘where the computer takes over the world.’” In the spring of 2011, I went through one of the strangest routines I’ve ever maintained, if only for a couple months: getting stoned and watching CNN.
I was a senior in high school, and for whatever reason, in those first three months of 2011, watched a lot of CNN stoned. Looking back, I realize that my renewed interest in Howard Stern came directly from his appearance on Piers Morgan’s new show. I remember when the Arab Spring appeared to initiate Twitter and social media as major players in world affairs, but by that fall, the failure of Occupy Wall Street made it clear these apps were only going to go so far. The image of Twitter as a positive world-changing place was destroyed a long time ago, and everyone was playing in the pigpen on Monday after Carlson’s dismissal was announced.
Carlson’s firing wasn’t a condition of the Dominion settlement, but related to harassment allegations and salacious information that’s only been teased by Fox so far. Yahoo News reported, “[Abby] Grossberg alleges that Fox coerced her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion case, and has said she filed the discrimination suit, as well as a separate lawsuit, after fearing that the network was going to make her a scapegoat. The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that Murdoch was incensed about insubordinate remarks Carlson made about Fox management, which were revealed during the discovery phase of the Dominion case.”
I haven’t watched cable news stoned in years, but I’m sure it’s much more entertaining than it was in the early months of 2011. As popular as Carlson’s show was, he wasn’t doing Bill O’Reilly numbers: according to DRUDGE, O’Reilly’s final episode drew 3.7 million people six years ago, while Carlson only got 2.9 million on Friday. To be fair, O’Reilly’s finale was known, while Carlson ended his last program with, “We’ll be back on Monday.”
The level of ire aimed at Carlson from the inside is understandable—he sounds like an asshole. But from the outside, who gives a shit? Everybody knows MSNBC hosts and Fox hosts are friends, at least some of them; Rachel Maddow may have “considered [Roger Ailes] a friend,” but she was even closer with Carlson, at least 20 years ago, before the fever set in, and everyone started running for the exits in this theater fire of the early-2020s.
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @nickyotissmith