Conservative commentator Tucker Carlson has announced the launch of a new version of his show on Twitter, highlighting the platform as a ‘bastion of free speech’.
The former Fox News host declared, “We’re back,” on Tuesday. Stating that he was starting a new show on Twitter, a sign that negotiations to reach an amicable separation with the network, where he is still under contract, had broken down.
We’re back. pic.twitter.com/sG5t9gr60O— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) May 9, 2023
Carlson offered no details of when his new program would begin or what kind of content it would have. The many unanswered questions highlighted the uncertainties surrounding his future — a career in which he would be deprived of a prime-time platform on Fox News.
Among the possibilities: Fox could ultimately block any attempt by the host to return to a prominent role in conservative media.
A representative for the Fox Corporation, which has been engaged in negotiations over the details of Carlson’s exit from the network since he was taken off the air last month, had no comment.
On Monday, Carlson had a conversation with the Fox Corporation executive chairman, Lachlan Murdoch, to discuss a possible exit from the company, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.
Carlson’s remarks on Tuesday, posted on Twitter — a platform run by Elon Musk, a provocateur in a similar mold as the combative, contrarian host — consisted of a three-minute monologue delivered directly to the camera. The video could violate the terms of his contract with Fox, which prevent Carlson from hosting a show on an alternate network.
One way Fox could try to prevent Carlson from posting new videos would be to seek an injunction, said Andy Lee, an entertainment lawyer with Foley & Lardner. But the network would have to persuade a judge that Carlson was doing irreparable harm to the network, such as by damaging its reputation or disclosing sensitive information. It would also have to show a likelihood that it would win at trial, another hurdle.
Carlson would probably resist all those arguments and also argue that his Twitter videos were protected under the First Amendment.
“The burden is high for this remedy, but people get injunctions all the time,” Mr. Lee said.
Bryan Freedman, Tucker Carlson’s lawyer, did not respond to requests for comment.
In response to Carlson’s tweet, Musk posted on Twitter that “we have not signed a deal of any kind whatsoever.” He added that Carlson would be “subject to the same rules & rewards of all content creators.”
On this platform, unlike the one-way street of broadcast, people are able to interact, critique and refute whatever is said.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2023
And, of course, anything misleading will get @CommunityNotes.
I also want to be clear that we have not signed a deal of any kind whatsoever. Tucker is… https://t.co/0TMjuYnKUp
Carlson started the monologue on Tuesday with a critique of the news industry, which he said was incapable of telling the truth. And he appeared to issue a veiled threat to disclose what he’d learned about the inner workings of the various media companies where he held various roles over the course of three decades.
“After more than 30 years in the middle of it, we could tell you stories,” said Carlson, who eschewed his usual coat and tie for a button-up checkered shirt. He recorded the video from his studio in Maine, according to a person with knowledge of how it came together.
In the video, Carlson offered little in the way of explanation for what his new show might entail, saying only that it would resemble “the show we’ve been doing for the last six and a half years,” a reference to his 8 p.m. Fox News program, “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Carlson said that “free speech” would be a major theme of the show, calling it “the main right you have.”
“See you soon,” Carlson said. He also launched a website, TuckerCarlson.com, promising subscribers “instant updates” on where and when they could watch the former Fox News host.
When Musk purchased Twitter last October for $44 billion, he justified the high price tag by saying he was protecting “free speech” and would reverse many of the content moderation decisions that had been made by a company he believed had become too left-leaning. He welcomed back many previously suspended or banned users, including known white nationalist accounts. Researchers reported more hate speech on the site, and many advertisers fled.
Last month, Musk went on Carlson’s Fox show to talk about his ownership of Twitter. He described the financial pressures on the company, noting that he had just halved the internal valuation of the company to about $20 billion.
“But some things are priceless,” Musk said. “And so whether I lose money or not, that is a secondary issue compared to ensuring the strength of democracy, and free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy.”
That interview would be one of Carlson’s last on Fox. The following week, shortly after Fox settled a defamation case partly involving Carlson for $787.5 million, the network canceled his popular show.
Carlson’s personal text messages released as part of the court case, brought by Dominion Voting Systems, had became a major source of embarrassment for Fox News. Carlson was revealed to have disparaged former President Donald J. Trump as “a demonic force” and a “destroyer.”
Later, in a text message that Fox concealed from the public record in the case, Carlson described how he had recently watched a video of a group of men beating up an “Antifa kid.” “It’s not how white men fight,” he wrote to one of his producers, in an expression of racial superiority. He went on to say that he had wanted that group to kill the person, only to realize that he’d gone too far.
It’s unclear if Carlson’s show would be live or taped, and through which format it would be broadcast on Twitter.
It’s also unclear whether Musk would pay for the production for the show or compensate Carlson.
One option for Musk could be to place Carlson’s show behind a paywall on Twitter. Musk has pushed for creators to use Twitter to exclusively distribute their content and the company recently unveiled subscription features Musk hopes can contribute meaningful revenue that could wean the platform off its dependence on advertising.
In his tweet on Tuesday, Musk said the “rewards” available to Carlson “means subscriptions and advertising revenue share (coming soon), which is a function of how many people subscribe and the advertising views associated with the content.”
Carlson may not only attract members of his older demographic to sign up for Twitter, but also get them to subscribe for exclusive content.
But giving a prominent platform to Carlson could risk further alienating many national brands, leading to fewer advertising dollars for Twitter.