By Jack Phillips
Fox News host Sean Hannity said he’s not sure why former fellow host Tucker Carlson departed the network and appeared to suggest that he didn’t believe it was a good idea.
For years, Hannity’s 9 p.m. ET show would follow Carlson’s timeslot. Carlson was among the highest-rated cable news personalities before Fox News announced his departure in a news release on Monday.
“It’s very hard,” Hannity said during his “The Sean Hannity Show” radio program. “My phone has been blowing up all day. The hard part for me is I don’t have a clue … I have no idea. Was it Tucker’s decision? Was it Fox’s? Was it a mutual agreement that they had? I don’t know.”
“I guess people think that because I’ve been there the longest that I’d have some knowledge or understanding of what’s going on, but … I just don’t,” Hannity added. “For those who think I should, I say to those people: ‘I don’t own the company.’”
Hannity’s show premiered in 2009, while Carlson’s started in November 2016. But Carlson quickly climbed in the ratings and as of March 2023, Carlson averaged well over 3 million viewers per show, according to Nielsen data.
Fox announced Carlson’s exit in a statement that read: “Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.” A spokeswoman for Fox News has not responded to a request for comment.
Fox News has provided few details about the departure, although host Harris Faulkner on Monday said that Fox and Carlson “mutually agreed” to part ways. For his part, Carlson has not issued a statement about the matter and no updates have been posted to his Twitter account.
Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly said the decision was a “terrible movie by Fox” but “a great thing for Tucker Carlson” during an episode of her podcast. She also suggested she has no idea what transpired before he left the network.
“I don’t know what drove Fox News to make this decision, and it was clearly Fox News’s decision because they’re not letting him say goodbye,” Kelly argued. “That’s my supposition. That’s not inside knowledge … I think this is a massive error. I think this is a massive misjudgment of what their audience wants.”
Fellow former host Bill O’Reilly, who himself was the No. 1 rated Fox News host before he left in 2017, said that it’s likely Fox News feared several upcoming lawsuits and saw Carlson as a “lightning rod.”
“There are a number of lawsuits going to be filed shortly against the Fox News’ board of directors,” O’Reilly added. “Fox News stock was down big today, so FNC is aware those lawsuits are coming. The board of directors themselves, the individuals sitting on the board, [they’re] going to have to defend themselves. That’s big.”
And, he added that “if the corporation feels you are a deterrent in any way, and it’s more than you’re bringing in, it’s not worth it.” O’Reilly said that Fox will likely have to continue to pay Carlson’s salary in the same “way they had to pay mine out.”
O’Reilly also claimed that he still communicates with people he worked with at Fox News and the decision to part ways with Carlson was a “shock to Tucker Carlson and his staff.”
“They were putting together tonight’s Monday night’s program,” alleged O’Reilly. “They were actively involved with making the rundown as all of us do who go on television each night to talk to you. In the middle of that, boom. Tucker Carlson is history at the Fox News show. That’s how fast it came.”
Like Carlson, O’Reilly for years had the 8 p.m. spot on Fox News, averaging about 4 million viewers each night. He left Fox in 2017 after allegations of sexual harassment.
“Tucker Carlson himself is a smart man and a talented broadcaster,” O’Reilly said. “Anybody who thinks he isn’t is a fool. I mean, he knows what he’s doing on television.”
In its Monday announcement, Fox News said it will use a rotating slate of guest hosts to fill in the 8 p.m. ET in a show called Fox News Tonight until a replacement is found. Brian Kilmeade hosted the first installment of the program on Monday night.