Everything to know about top-rated Fox News host Tucker Carlson's exit: A seismic cable shift

Fox News and Tucker Carlson, the top-rated cable news host, are "parting ways," the network announced Monday. 

Carlson's last hosting duty for his prime-time conservative opinion show "Tucker Carlson Tonight" was Friday, Fox said.  An interim show, consisting of rotating Fox News personalities, will fill the 8 ET time slot starting tonight until a new host is named.

"We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor," Fox said.

Carlson, 53, did not telegraph the news on Friday's show, and Fox never gave him the opportunity to address his viewers. Instead, he signed off from what turned out to be his final show with, "We'll be back on Monday; in the meantime have the best weekend."

On Monday's show, Fox News' Brian Kilmeade filled in during Carlson's slot. 

"As you probably have heard, Fox News and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways," Kilmeade said, kicking off the show. "I wish Tucker the best. I’m great friends with Tucker and always will be."

Carlson became Fox’s most popular personality after replacing Bill O’Reilly, who was fired in 2016 after settling a sexual harassment investigation. He’s also consistently drawn headlines for controversial coverage, most recently airing tapes from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection to minimize the impact of the deadly attack.

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Tucker Carlson hosts a highly rated conservative opinion show on Fox News.

Why is Tucker Carlson leaving Fox News?

Network spokespersons didn't respond to a request to elaborate on the reasons for his departure, but it quickly followed last week's $787.5 million payment Fox agreed to make to settle a lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems.  Dominion's suit accused Fox News of recklessly airing false election claims and conspiracy theories following the 2020 presidential election, with Tucker's revealed text messages front and center in the case.

Among the network's election deniers, Lou Dobbs exited in February 2021, when his Fox Business show was abruptly canceled shortly after the insurrection. Contributor Dan Bongino was dropped late last week (he blamed failure to agree on a new contract). Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo. among the staunchest defenders of former President Donald Trump, who echoed his claims the 2020 election was rigged, remain at the network for now.  

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Tucker Carlson defends Trump on air, bashes him in texts

In one text to a producer, after a campaign tip about Trump, who lost the election, proved to be false, Carlson wrote: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait."

Carlson added that “I hate him passionately" and "I can’t handle much more of this."

He was also quoted using profane language to describe Sidney Powell, the Trump supporter and conservative attorney who was given airtime on other Fox shows to spread lies about Dominion, and called her a "psychopath."

Carlson was recently named in a lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg, a Fox News producer fired after claiming that Fox lawyers had pressured her to give misleading testimony in the Dominion lawsuit. Grossberg had gone to work for Carlson after leaving Maria Bartiromo’s Fox show.

The lawsuit says that Grossberg learned "she had merely traded in one overtly misogynistic work environment for an even crueler one – this time, one where unprofessionalism reigned supreme, and the staff’s distaste and disdain for women infiltrated almost every workday decision."

On her first day of work at Carlson’s program, Grossberg said in her lawsuit, she was met with large, blown-up images of Rep. Nancy Pelosi in a bathing suit with a plunging neckline.

Fox has called the lawsuit "baseless."

Reaction to Carlson's surprise departure became an instant top-trending Twitter topic.

"Tucker Carlson became, for a time, BIGGER than Fox News. His disappearance will ripple through Fox, the wider TV world and the GOP," tweeted Brian Stelter, formerly of rival network CNN, who has written a book on Fox News with another planned.

The anti-Trump Lincoln Project called Tucker Carlson "an abomination, a driver of conspiracy and the worst our nation has to offer. Good riddance."

Former Fox News and NBC host Megyn Kelly said on her SiriusXM show that the split was a "terrible move" by Fox and a "great thing" for Carlson. 

"I’m not worried about Tucker at all," said Kelly. "I predict Tucker goes independent. Tucker launches a podcast or digital show and absolutely crushes it."

Media figures react to Carlson's exit

Conservative radio host Charlie Kirk tweeted that "the left is celebrating because they think that Tucker Carlson leaving Fox News eliminates his voice. Wrong." (Carlson's future plans are unknown.) 

"Dear America" podcast host Graham Allen tweeted a clip from Carlson's show Friday.

"Tucker Carlson's last moment on Fox, was spent eating pizza with the hero delivery man who stopped a car jacker. No better way for the greatest news show in history to end!!!!!" Allen wrote, adding in another tweet: "This is the best thing to ever happen to Tucker! Fox News is done, but Tucker is about to give Joe Rogan a run for his money!"

Florida Republican congressional candidate Lavern Spicer tweeted that wherever Carlson lands "is going to be the new 'it' place to be for conservatives."

"The View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg read the news of Carlson's departure on air Monday, bringing boisterous applause from the studio audience.

Roy Wood Jr., a "Daily Show" correspondent who has filled in as host following Trevor Noah's departure, offered his services to Fox News.

"While the Daily Show is figuring things out, happy to swing by and guest host for a week. Resume’ is attached," he tweeted.

Contributing: Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press