Opposites Retract

Perhaps T.S. Eliot said it best.  And he wasn’t even an anchorman.

In a dizzying sequence of several minutes yesterday, one that despite any claims by either entity were not related to each other, two onetime rivals for primetime vierwership and parochial loyalty, FOX News’ Tucker Carlson and CNN’s Don Lemon, both joined the unemployment line.  And any hope yours truly may have had in pivoting back to less consequential or timely issues ended right then and there.

Carlson was the first of the two to learn his fate, reportedly just 10 minutes before the news became public.  A terse initial statement from FOX News president Suzanne Scott “thanked him for his service”, which then produced a daylong cycle of reactions and clarity that inevitably cascaded into ideological rants and, eventually, even the very fallout on stock price that Carlson frequently foreshadowed in many of the texts revealed by the Dominion lawsuit.

Per NEWSWEEK’s Anna Skinner:

Republicans are shocked that Tucker Carlson is leaving Fox News. Alt-right political activist Jack Posobiec shared a live reaction from Bannon to Twitter. 

“Tucker Carlson and Fox News have parted ways,” Bannon said in the clip. “The last show of Tucker Carlson Tonight was Friday night, so this obviously came to a head over the weekend.

“Tucker is really the reason to watch Fox,” Bannon added. “This is blockbuster news.”

Minutes before tweeting the Bannon video, Posobiec published a tweet speculating that Carlson would be Trump’s running mate in the 2024 presidential election.

But while his shocked supporters literally wrung their hands in the same kind of mock shock that punctuated many of Carlson’s nightly rants, his detractors literally danced on what they feverishly prayed was the grave of his career.  As VARIETY’s Zach Sharf reported, some with the opportunity to react in real time couldn’t help but turn their reaction into a rally:

“The View” hosts rejoiced during the April 24 episode of the ABC talk show as it was announced during the taping that Tucker Carlson was leaving Fox News. The audience cheered when “The View” moderator Whoopi Goldberg broke the news on air, saying, “Word has just come down that Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways.”

“Can I ask the audience if they’ll help me do something?” Ana Navarro said as she threw her hands in the air and started singing Steam’s 1969 hit “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”  “I don’t think anyone likes to celebrate the demise of someone’s career, but he is responsible for the degradation that we see somewhat of our democracy in this country,” Sunny Hostin added. “And I just think, as a faithful person: Look at God. Look at God!”

And just as ex-CNN personality Navarro and ex-Trump staffer Hostin offered their views, far less surprising news about CNN’s Don Lemon dropped, with equal network terseness and, as the INDEPENDENT’s Tom Murray and Peony Hirwani reported, a mic-dropping real time reaction to said personality’s mock shock:

On Monday (24 April), the news anchor announced that he had “parted ways” with CNN following a string of scandals in recent months, barely an hour after news broke that Tucker Carlson had been fired from Fox News.

“CNN and Don have parted ways,” the network said in a statement.

“Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavours.”

Lemon reacted to the news with his own statement on Twitter saying he was left “stunned” after being informed by his agent that CNN had allegedly terminated his contract without informing him.

“After 17 years at CNN I would have thought someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly,” he wrote.

CNN has called Lemon’s statement “inaccurate”.

The Los Angeles Times’ Meg James provided context:

Don Lemon’s statement about this morning’s events is inaccurate,” the network said in a statement posted online. “He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.”

The move came as CNN began facing resistance from advertisers and potential guests for the morning news program “CNN This Morning,” which Lemon co-anchored, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

Understand that politically and personally Carlson and Lemon could not be more polarized opposites.  Carlson was consistently the most-watched TV personality in the country; Lemon a failure in prime time when the equally scandal-laden Chris Cuomo was let go and an even more toxic and ill-fit failure when new president Chris Licht tried to make him the Bryant Gumble of 2023 with CNN’s struggling and feeble counter to THE TODAY SHOW.

But the similarities between their respective demises are undeniable, and the real bottom line reasons for their departures are consistent.

They were–and are–egotistical, toxic, believe they are superior to their colleagues and their superiors, creating toxic work environments, and cost their companies money.

For all of Carlson’s success, and the lock he seems to have to the mindsets of so many FOX News loyalists, the ubiquitous presence of My Pillow ads and few other products strongly suggests that advertisers saw him in a far less favorable light than did his viewers.  And Lemon’s increasing arrogance and unpredictablity, one that had previously had him removed temporarily after his snarky rant on announced Republican presdential candidate Nikki Haley, made him just as much of a liability to his now former employer.  A live, ill-fated attempt to attempt to swat down what he saw as a personal attack last week, as The New York Post’s Allie Griffin reported, perhaps sealed his fate:

Don Lemon’s fiery on-air exchange with GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy left CNN leaders “exasperated” ahead of his shocking ouster from the cable news network, according to a report.

Lemon got into a heated argument with Ramaswamy on the set of “CNN This Morning” last Wednesday and the televised clash reportedly played a role in his firing, the New York Times reported.

The banished CNN star’s visible irritability during the conversation with Ramaswamy on the Civil Rights movement, black Americans and the Second Amendment “left several CNN leaders exasperated,” two sources told the paper.

In the footage of the interview, it appears producers were attempting to advise Lemon through the heated debate.

“Please, I cannot keep a thought if you guys are talking in my ear,” he said at one point during the segment.

Ramaswamy told Fox News Digital that he thought it was clear their on-air confrontation “played a role” in CNN’s decision to drop Lemon.

“I think that any network that wants to foster open debate should embrace that principle by not restricting what someone can say or saying what someone can say is restricted based on their skin color,” Ramaswamy told the outlet. “And I think they made the right decision here.”

Lemon, who is black, had said it was “insulting” that the GOPer was “sitting here, whatever ethnicity you are, explaining to me what it’s like to be black in America.”

Maybe he’s not quite “the dumbest man in America”, as one obese orange-toned presidential candidate “truthed” yesterday, but actions like that, to a far smaller and less supportive congregation than Carlson had, actually gave rare justification to reactions like that.

Here’s what else both Carlson and Lemon have in common.  They didn’t RUN their networks, despite their attempts to justify in their own minds the contrary.  They are well compensated, and likely still will be.  But not as much as those in charge.  And in exile, they are still costing their now former employers money.  FOX stocks declined 3% by days’ end, and Warner Brothers Discovery closed -1.6% by day’s end.

Lemon was preceded by others in prime time, including the last man standing, Anderson Cooper, who shares Lemon’s life choices but has someone chosen not to stand on ceremony, and had already been replaced.  On the ill-fated morning show, rising stars Poppy Harlow and Kaitlyn Collins appear to be CNN’s new faces, at least for now.  And even Carlson’s pulpit had predecessors, who at various times had their own issues.  Carlson replaced Bill O’Reilly, ultimately cast out by the scandal that claimed the job and, shortly after, the life of FOX News architect Roger Ailes.  Ailes had lifted Rush Limbaugh to similar prominence years earlier.  In between, Morton Downey, Jr. had a similar primetime pulpit, first on nationally distributed local New York television and, later, on Ailes’ CNBC.  And before THEM, of course, there was Howard Beale.

One can easily see Carlson now taking on Beale’s fictional legacy even more personally.  If Glenn Beck could leave FOX News and carve out a business model for himself that makes his inferior ratings moot, one can only imagine the fiscal windfall Carlson could realize.  Even if a fraction of his FOX News audience agrees to find a few dollars from their fixed incomes to subscribe to his platform, and even if a smattering of his viewers actually make good on their thinly veiled and emotional threats to stop watching the network, Carlson will continue to have an influence on viewers and voters.  Running mate?  Heck, Carlson conceivably could become a challenger to Trump, and we’ll finally see if the hero worshipping interview he recently gave Trump was his idea, and his way of kissing his obese orange ass, or, perhaps, the wishes of the increasingly volatile and inconsistent Rupert Murdoch, who perhaps has concluded Trump’s hold on his audience was far more resillient than even he was willing to battle.

As for Lemon, I suspect there’s a tell-all book coming, particularly in an election cycle.  There’s undoubtedly some candidate who will embrace his experience despite his remarkable tone-deafness. (Kamala Harris, anyone?)  And don’t go contributing to HIS GoFundMe anytime soon, either.  Because here’s something else he has in common with Carlson.  As Forbes’ Nicholas Reimann reported

Ousted CNN anchor Don Lemon and Fox News host Tucker Carlson have both reportedly tapped high-powered entertainment lawyer Bryan Freedman to represent them following their sudden departures Monday, turning to an attorney known for aggressively representing A-list clients in a sign the two polarizing figures might pursue legal action against their old networks—or push the companies to pay up.

Freedman, based out of Los Angeles, boasts a list of clients like former Bachelor host Chris Harrison, film director Quentin Tarantino and actress Gabrielle Union, while his law firm’s website refers to him as “the go to lawyer in crisis litigation.”

Freedman has dealt with messy news separations before—he represented Megyn Kelly after NBC fired her in 2019, reaching an agreement with the network to pay her contract in full despite an early termination, securing Kelly roughly $30 million.

Guess April isn’t too cruel to lawyers.
I can’t wait ’till May.
Until next time….

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