Fox News and CNN look a lot different with two of cable news’s most recognizable faces, Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon, ousted from their respective home networks. As the dust settles from Monday’s stunning shakeups, all eyes are already on what’s next for the two anchors, Carlson in particular.
Carlson and Lemon join a list of other prominent newscasters who have lost their jobs amid controversy. The fact neither Fox News nor CNN has given a specific reason as to why the on-air talent was terminated only adds fuel to the media firestorm that has ensued.
So, where do Lemon and Carlson go from here? Yahoo Entertainment canvassed several experts, who weighed in possible landing spots based on how the hosts’ peers weathered other controversies.
Lemon and Carlson are hardly the first big names in news to lose their jobs.
If history is any indication, we’ll see, or hear, more from these two in the future. When looking at past scandals across news networks, prominent on-air anchors and hosts, for the most part, have landed on their feet. Here are how five of the biggest shakeups over the past decade panned out.
The political commentator, once the top-rated host in cable news, was forced out of Fox News in 2017 after an internal investigation corroborated multiple alleged sexual-harassment allegations. The O’Reilly Factor anchor called the claims “unfounded.” The stunning move came months after a sexual-harassment scandal led to the ouster of former Fox News Chairman Roger E. Ailes. O’Reilly was dropped by both his talent and literary agents in the wake of the scandal. In the six years since his firing, O’Reilly launched his own radio show, No Spin News, and now regularly appears on NewsNation with Chris Cuomo.
In 2021, CNN’s primetime star was suspended, and then fired, for aiding his brother, Andrew Cuomo, amid the former New York governor’s sexual-harassment scandal. Chris Cuomo was also accused of sexual misconduct, an allegation he denied. It didn’t take long for the former Cuomo Prime Time host to find another gig. He now anchors Cuomo on NewsNation, “a no-nonsense show featuring the day’s most important news from all perspectives.” He also has a podcast, The Chris Cuomo Projects.
The journalist was NBC News’s top anchor from 2004 to 2015, but was abruptly suspended without pay from Nightly News after it was determined he falsely claimed he’d been in a helicopter that was hit by enemy fire in the Iraq War. Despite a big repetitional hit, Williams stuck around as he eventually moved to MSNBC where he launched The 11th Hour. In 2021, Williams announced he was leaving after 28 years to “spend time with his family.”
As the #MeToo movement swept through the industry in 2017, NBC fired the longtime Today show host following allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Lauer initially stayed silent, but spoke out two years later to refute a specific claim that he raped a former co-worker. Lauer said he and the woman had a “consensual” affair. He has not worked in media since the scandal.
When Kelly departed Fox, she was excited to leave the “snake pit” of primetime news. In 2017, the conservative journalist landed a daytime slot at NBC with Megyn Kelly Today — but her time there was short-lived. The show was canceled one year later after Kelly made controversial remarks about blackface and Halloween costumes. Kelly settled with NBC for a multimillion dollar sum and eventually got back to work. Kelly hosts a talk show and podcast, The Megyn Kelly Show, on SiriusXM and YouTube.
Carlson and Lemon are slightly different cases, though.
No official reason was given as to why the two were let go, but varying narratives have begun to emerge in the press.
“There is less of a specific anchor to the oustings of Carlson and Lemon, but that doesn’t make them less interesting,” Allison Butler, media critic and senior lecturer at University of Massachusetts Amherst, explains to Yahoo Entertainment. “Lauer, O’Reilly and Cuomo were all part of the #MeToo movement and a pushback against male bullies in the workplace. Carlson has yet to have the allegations of a volatile workplace be formally proven.”
Two lawsuits hover over Carlson’s termination. His firing comes days after Fox News’s hefty $787.5 million settlement agreement with Dominion Voting Systems. Some of Carlson’s headline-grabbing text messages were released as part of the dispute, but there were also ton of redacted correspondence from the commentator that, while they weren’t made public, were seen by Fox’s top executives. Clearly, someone high up wasn’t happy — and that person was reportedly Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch. The Los Angeles Times reports the decision was also related to a discrimination lawsuit filed by former Tucker Carlson Tonight booker, Abby Grossberg.
“One presumes that the behind-the-scenes calculations at Fox saw that he would prove to be too dangerous or too embarrassing to keep around, despite his ratings. Parting ways at this point may save Fox from future embarrassment while simultaneously, because of his popularity, sets Carlson up for future work,” Butler continues. “It’s a win-win for both network and individual.”
(Meanwhile, Vanity Fair, citing an unnamed source, suggested in a report released Tuesday that Murdoch was upset by “extreme” religious views espoused by Carlson in a speech to the Heritage Foundation on Friday, the day his final show aired. Carlson denounced those calling for LGBTQ rights and DEI programs and said America needed more prayer. “That stuff freaks Rupert out. He doesn’t like all the spiritual talk,” the source told Vanity Fair.)
As for Lemon, he has been in hot water for months due to misogynistic comments on air. A recent exposé also highlighted alleged sexist behavior off camera, which he denied.
“Lemon fumbled a great deal and made utterly stupid statements, but again, there is no singular reason for his ousting. His statements against women were insulting, but also totally unoriginal; women have been hearing misogynistic claims about their worth and have been on the receiving end of fake apologies for generations,” Butler adds.
“Carlson will be fine and will land soon.”
Butler, co-author of The Media and Me: A Guide to Critical Media Literacy for Young People, believes “as long as [Carlson] stays volatile, he will be professionally fine.”
“He has fomented enough divisiveness that he can either start his own platform or be hired by the most right-wing conservative branch of the media and be the star player. He no longer needs to be a centerpiece in a crowded field; he can be the centerpiece,” she explains. “Carlson is laser-focused in his messaging, stays on-brand, and rarely strays from his core performance. This will make him an easy hire.”
Mark Feldstein, professor at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, believes Carlson has more of an opportunity than some of his Fox News predecessors, but says he won’t wield the same power as one week ago.
“None of the anchors at Fox who were [let go] in disgrace have rehabilitated themselves. Not Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs — none of them have had the same kind of influence that they did. Fox is the star, really, not any of the hosts who temporarily think they’re stars,” Feldstein tells Yahoo.
“That said, Carlson’s contacts within the right-wing political arena might bounce in some strange ways if he ends up running [for office]. There’s some strange ways he could bounce, but I don’t think he will ever have the same kind of clout he did when Fox News was his megaphone,” he concludes.
“I could see Lemon ending up at Fox.”
Feldstein, who spent 20 years as an on-air investigative correspondent at networks including CNN and ABC News, makes a surprising prediction about a potential landing spot for Lemon.
“I could see Lemon ending up at Fox as their token liberal who the rest of the conservatives get to beat on like they did Alan Colmes back in the day,” Feldstein adds. (Colmes was the liberal counterpart to Sean Hannity as the two hosted Hannity & Colmes from 1994 to 2008.) Feldstein says both Fox and Lemon could be interested in the move “just to kind of stick a finger in CNN’s eye.”
“I don’t know if that will happen. I don’t think any other major news network will touch [Lemon],” he adds.
Butler agrees that Lemon is “more of a risk,” adding that Carlson is likely a “different case.”
“[Lemon’s] has fumbled so many times and spoken so problematically, he will need to be re-branded before he moves back into the spotlight. The ‘sensitivity training’ from February may snowball into a public self-reckoning which may be announced via speaking engagements or a book deal, which will launch the next phase of his career,” she speculates.
“I think this is absolutely not the last we will see or hear of either of them. But I do think we’ll hear and see Carlson more prominently sooner than we’ll hear about or from Lemon,” Butler says.