Pre-2016 Fox: What Happens to the 3 Million ‘Tucker’ Viewers?

tucker carlson
Tucker Carlson speaking with attendees at the 2021 AmericaFest at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

April 24, 2023

There’s much we still don’t know about why Tucker Carlson and Fox News parted ways. For endless speculation, see the mainstream outlets that fired up their computers to break the story along with hundreds of other outlets that need to piggyback off of the fleeting SEO craze. What we do know is that the firing follows a $787.5 million settlement between Fox and Dominion Voting Systems after the latter alleged that the outlet promulgated disinformation about the company rigging the 2020 election in favor of Joe Biden. 

Despite Carlson’s alleged “hatred” for the former president, as text messages in January 2021 reveal, his release of the January 6th footage given to him by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was more fodder for Democrats to call for his termination—that is, when they weren’t screeching about fictitious apologetics for white supremacy and misogyny. At one point, Carlson was accused of “advocating” for the “great replacement theory,” which has been outed as a democratic strategy to replace Americans with progressive immigrants. 

Putting the left’s controversy of Carlson aside, there are more pressing questions that more people on the right should be asking: what happens now that the most popular host on cable television, who draws in more than three million viewers a night, is no longer on air? And what happens to those three million viewers? 

Tucker Carlson Tonight reportedly pulled in more viewers than any other cable news show between Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and Newsmax, winning over the key 25-54 age demographic. But the main issue with a demographic spanning nearly 30 years is that it says nothing of the late boomers of 1964 who are part of a generation that will not put down the remote for other forms of media and entertainment. 

So while Carlson will be “just fine” in whatever he does now, the right will no longer reach those older men and women that make up a significant portion of the electorate. As John Doyle explains, the boomers will not “abandon television in favor of new, more decentralized media online.” 

“There exists a type of person who literally only watches Fox News, or reads articles from or adjacent to Fox News,” he continues. “This person also happens to be a crucial component of our base. Yes, Old Media is being suffocated. But it’s still important to have an established beachhead, especially if that happens to be the all-time most popular news program, hosted on the most popular cable news network of this century.” 

The argument is that a good portion of Carlson’s viewers are not just going to turn the television off and open up their laptop (if they have one) for alternative sources of news; and it isn’t Fox that is going to pay for it, at least not now. 

“Whoever fills his spot is still pretty much guaranteed millions of viewers a night,” Doyle writes. “I know we want Fox to tank, but we just don’t have the organization for that to happen and so it won’t. Our voters will now be tuning into a far less accurate comprehension of our problems.” 

And then Doyle adds something that is particularly worthy to note as speculation continues to mount that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is going to formally announce his 2024 bid in May: Fox News viewers are the same viewers that voted for Bush and Romney, so it isn’t unimaginable that right-wing sentiment could shift back to what it was before 2016. 

This might be a darker analysis opposed to other right-wingers more optimistic in our organizational capacity. But after all, boomers aren’t mindlessly sitting in front of the television without being cognizant of what is going on. After the advent of the Trumpian right, it’s also difficult to imagine that, should Fox News pivot back to the liberal politics of Romney, a once galvanized base will nod their heads in complacency to the empire that called Arizona too early. 


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