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Tucker Carlson Out at Fox News
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Tucker Carlson Out at Fox News

Plus: Mortgage fee changes burn better borrowers.

Happy Tuesday! The bad man is finally gone.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • President Joe Biden announced his reelection campaign Tuesday morning with the release of a 3-minute video making the case that he is a unifying leader successfully winning the “battle for the soul of the country” against “MAGA extremists.” 
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the negotiation of a temporary nationwide ceasefire in Sudan, beginning Monday at midnight and lasting 72 hours—though previous attempts at a ceasefire have swiftly collapsed. Blinken said the U.S. would also stand up a committee to negotiate a “durable end” to the fighting between supporters of two rival generals that has killed more than 400 people since it began last week. 
  • The Wall Street Journal reported Monday Iran is supplying Russia with large amounts of artillery and other ammunition via the Caspian Sea. According to documents reviewed by the Journal, Iran has allegedly shipped more than 300,000 artillery shells and more than a million rounds of ammunition to Russia over the last six months, boosting Moscow’s efforts in Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies have reportedly been searching for ways to disrupt the shipments, but doing so would require the cooperation of the former Soviet Republics that border the Caspian Sea.
  • In a letter to local law enforcement giving officers time to prepare for any unrest, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis indicated Monday any potential indictment of former President Donald Trump or his allies would be announced between July 11 and September 1, 2023. Trump and several of his associates have been under investigation in Georgia for two years in connection with their efforts to subvert the 2020 election results in the state. 
  • Trump picked up two more high-profile endorsements on Monday, from former Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York and Sen. Steve Daines of Montana. Zeldin—who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2022—had appeared with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in recent months, while Daines is leading the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2024 cycle.
  • The White House announced Monday that Susan Rice, President Joe Biden’s domestic policy adviser, is stepping down. Rice, who had previously served as former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations, will remain in the role until late May, and Axios reports Neera Tanden—Biden’s staff secretary and senior adviser—is being considered as Rice’s potential successor.

‘Please Get [Him] Fired. Seriously.’

Tucker Carlson speaks during the 2022 Fox Nation Patriot Awards. (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images)
Tucker Carlson speaks during the 2022 Fox Nation Patriot Awards. (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images)

At the Heritage Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Gala over the weekend, Heritage President Kevin Roberts jokingly made what turned out to be an exceptionally well-timed job offer to a certain primetime cable news host. “If things go south at Fox News, there’s always a job for you at Heritage,” he told Tucker Carlson.

The political world was rocked Monday morning when Fox News announced in a terse, 65-word statement that it was parting ways with the network’s most popular anchor. “We thank [Tucker] for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor,” the press release read. “Mr. Carlson’s last program was Friday, April 21st.”

Although the statement described the separation as mutually agreed upon, the timing makes clear it was anything but. Carlson—who was reportedly in negotiations to extend his Fox contract through 2029—was “blindsided” by the news, informed of his firing just 10 minutes before the rest of the world. And he didn’t even get to say goodbye: His final show aired on Friday, and—following a closing segment featuring a pizza delivery guy who helped catch a car thief—he closed out the program by wishing viewers a great weekend and telling them, “We’ll be back Monday.”

He was not. When Fox viewers tuned in for the 8 p.m. hour last night, they weren’t met by the quizzical face that had occupied the time slot since 2017. Instead, an uncomfortable-looking Brian Kilmeade—the first in a series of rotating interim hosts—welcomed his audience to Fox News Tonight. “As you probably have heard, Fox News and Tucker Carson have agreed to part ways. I wish Tucker the best,” he said. “But right now, it’s time for Fox News Tonight. Let’s get started.”

Fox’s stocks fell by 5 percent yesterday morning after the news broke, losing  nearly $1 billion in value, before the price rebounded slightly to close down 3 percent. Neither Carlson nor Fox have commented publicly about what precipitated the split, but a number of theories—loosely attributed to “sources familiar”—emerged over the course of the day. Just about all of them were related in some way to Fox’s eye-popping $787.5 million settlement last week with Dominion Voting Systems.

The silver lining for Carlson: He wasn’t the only well-known cable news host let go yesterday. CNN parted ways with Don Lemon—a 17 year veteran of the network who most recently co-hosted CNN This Morning. Lemon faced scrutiny in recent months over widely panned comments he made about women and an expose in Variety detailing unprofessional and hostile behavior toward his female colleagues.

So, why did Fox separate withCarlson so suddenly? The network did not disclose a reason for Carlson’s departure, so we don’t know for certain. Some reports suggest Suzanne Scott, CEO of Fox News, and Lachlan Murdoch, CEO of Fox Corporation, decided Friday night to fire Carlson. Other reports say the decision came straight from Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch. 

Most reports on Carlson’s exit so far rely on unnamed sources that have yet to confirm their claims publicly. What we do know is this: He was one of the figures at the center of Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation suit against Fox. Thanks to Dominion court filings from February, we know that Carlson—along with a number of the executives reportedly responsible for his firing, including Scott and Murdoch—platformed people they knew were spreading lies about the 2020 election in an effort to keep their viewers happy (see our February 21 TMD).

To his credit, Carlson questioned the credibility of Sidney Powell, one of the most aggressive and dishonest election conspiracy theorists, both in private and on air. But the Dominion discovery documents also revealed that while in private communications he repeatedly cast doubt on Trump-friendly claims of a stolen election, in public and on-air he amplified the false stolen-election narrative. While Carlson’s TV persona embraced and often celebrated former President Donald Trump, the host privately trashed the former president. “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights,” Carlson wrote in a text sent on January 4, 2021. “I truly can’t wait,” he added, declaring, “I hate him passionately.” And summarizing the Trump presidency, he wrote in another message: “That’s the last four years. We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.”

(That didn’t seem to stop Trump for expressing dismay at Carlson’s departure Monday. “I’m shocked, I’m surprised,” the former president said. “I think Tucker’s been terrific, especially over the last year or so, he’s been terrific to me.”)

Dominion’s discovery process also unearthed troves of less-than-flattering private messages among Fox hosts and producers questioning the company’s management decisions. “Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience?” Carlson texted his producer after Fox called the election for Biden. “Those f—s are destroying our credibility.”

The publicly released Dominion filing included large redactions that may have revealed even harsher criticisms of Fox executives by Carlson. Unnamed sources told the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal that Carlson’s comments about his colleagues contributed to the end of his relationship with Fox. And sources inside Fox tell TMD that secret recordings made by a former producer on Carlson’s show added to that frustration. 

Abby Grossberg, who also worked as a producer for Fox News host Maria Bartiromo, filed a lawsuit last month alleging discrimination and harassment at Fox. Grossberg claims that while working on Carlson’s show she “endure[d] a work environment that subjugates women based on vile sexist stereotypes, typecasts religious minorities and belittles their traditions, and demonstrates little to no regard for those suffering from mental illness.” In addition to Carlson, several other Fox employees are named in the suit including Justin Wells, a senior producer for Carlson. Fox also ended its relationship with Wells Monday. 

“Tucker Carlson’s departure from Fox News is, in part, an admission of the systemic lying, bullying and conspiracy-mongering claimed by our client,” said Tanvir Rahman, one of Grossberg’s lawyers. “Mr. Carlson and his subordinates remain individual defendants in the [Southern District of New York] case, and we look forward to taking their depositions under oath in the very near term.”

And that’s not the end of Fox and Carlson’s potential legal troubles. Fox still faces a defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic USA, a voting systems technology company, which could potentially reveal additional damaging information about the company or Carlson. “Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign,” J. Erik Connolly, an attorney for Smartmatic, said last week. “Smartmatic will expose the rest.” 

Among the key questions that remain: Does Carlson’s departure signal broader editorial changes at a network exposed for its willingness to mislead its audience for ratings and dollars? In recent years, Carlson provided a megaphone for far-right grievances and conspiracy theories, most notably airing misrepresentations, manipulations, and in some instances, outright lies about the 2020 election and January 6. The latter prompted The Dispatch’s Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg to leave Fox. “Fox News still does real reporting, and there are still responsible conservatives providing valuable opinion and analysis,” Hayes and Goldberg wrote at the time. “But the voices of the responsible are being drowned out by the irresponsible.”

Carlson had near-absolute editorial control over what appeared on his primetime show and in the shows and specials he hosted on Fox Nation, Fox’s subscription streaming service. Several senior Fox News executives were surprised to learn the details of allegations Carlson aired in his January 6 documentary, Patriot Purge, and despite clear and direct warnings from a variety of voices inside the network, allowed Carlson to air false claims in that report. 

That Fox executives didn’t rein Carlson in even after the blowback from Patriot Purge or his other controversial shows suggests that while editorial concerns may have played a role in his departure, not-yet-public details from the Grossberg suit and other legal issues may have proved decisive.

Many of the  responsible voices on Fox’s news side are happy to see Carlson go. Sources tell TMD that the news was met with enthusiasm and relief from line producers and bookers to members of Fox’s board. “Pure joy,” a Fox reporter told Rolling Stone. “No one is untouchable. It’s a great day for America, and for the real journalists who work hard every day to deliver the news at Fox.”

Jacqui Heinrich, a White House correspondent for Fox News, might be feeling particularly vindicated after Tucker’s departure. When she accurately fact-checked a Trump tweet about Dominion that mentioned Fox broadcasts, Carlson wanted her fired. “Please get her fired. Seriously,” Carlson said in a text to Sean Hannity.  

Heinrich is still reporting for Fox News. Carlson is gone.    

Monkeying with Mortgage Fees

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s plan to help people with lower credit scores afford houses has only three problems, according to financial analysts: It improperly prices loans, it stiffs people with high credit scores, and it won’t work. Other than that, sounds good.

In a bid to expand opportunities for prospective first-time homeowners with limited financial resources, the FHFA has embraced cross-subsidization of mortgage risks—lowering fees for buyers with lower credit scores while raising them for those with higher credit scores. It’s not an unprecedented step, but economists argue it’ll drive up home prices for lower-income buyers, leaving them no better off.

The FHFA has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—which guarantee most mortgages in the United States—to adjust their Loan Level Price Adjustments (LLPAs), which use information like credit scores to adjust guarantor fees to fit the level of risk of a given mortgage. Since credit scores are intended as a measure of how likely someone is to pay back loans, lower credit scores equal higher fees to guarantee, and thus higher mortgage costs for the homebuyer.

The new rules will weaken that risk-cost connection. Under the new LLPA matrix—technically taking effect May 1 but already being priced in on new mortgages—the cost in higher fees of a lower credit score will shrink. Offsetting this drop, fees will rise for buyers with higher credit scores. Exactly how much depends on the buyer and property. These costs won’t show up as a line item on a homeowner’s bill, but they’ll add up. According to a Wall Street Journal calculation, a buyer with a credit score over 680 could pay about $40 more per month on a $400,000 loan than they would have previously. Before you go sabotaging your credit score, though, it’s important to note buyers with higher scores will still get better interest rates.

The FHFA hasn’t explicitly described these changes as cross-subsidization, but they fit the definition: charging one category of consumers more to support lower prices for another category. This phenomenon has been playing out in the mortgage industry to various degrees for years, but the changes are a step up. Asked about the potential to hurt higher credit buyers, the FHFA has declared its fee changes “minimal” compared to the cost of long-term mortgage rate changes.

Industry groups have criticized the adjustments. “In the wake of a three-percentage point increase in mortgage rates, now is not the time to raise fees on homebuyers,” the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said in a statement, calling the changes “unnecessary.” Several groups are particularly concerned about the FHFA’s plan to add a fee for borrowers with a higher than 40 percent debt-to-income (DTI) ratio—used to measure buyers’ ability to manage monthly payments. 

The NAR argued the debt-to-income ratio is “a poor measure of a borrower’s ability to repay,” making the extra fee unfair, while the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) has focused on the impracticality of working the number into mortgage calculations. Freelancers, for instance, might see their income fluctuate multiple times while buying a home, requiring recalculations of their mortgage rates. FHFA delayed the debt-to-income change to August after pushback, but industry groups want it canceled altogether. “FHFA’s new fees will inevitably lead to borrowers’ costs changing between application and closing, requiring multiple redisclosures that will increase compliance costs and confuse borrowers,” MBA head Robert Broeksmit said in a letter to FHFA.

Undaunted, the FHFA insists the new LLPA matrix will improve housing affordability—and could help close racial gaps in homeownership. FHFA Director Sandra Thompson said the new fee matrix will “increase pricing support for purchase borrowers limited by income or by wealth,” and the Biden administration has long aimed to close racial gaps in homeownership, particularly for black borrowers.

A 2022 NAR analysis found about 43 percent of black Americans owned homes, compared to 51 percent of Hispanic Americans, 62 percent of Asian Americans, and 72 percent of white Americans. A 2022 Urban Institute analysis found young adults in majority-black communities had a median credit score of 582, while those in majority-Hispanic communities had a median of 644, and majority-white communities had a median credit score of 687. Scores below 600 are considered subprime, producing much worse lending terms.

But housing policy analysts warn the plan could backfire on the very buyers it aims to help by giving a whole category of would-be homeowners more buying power without adding more homes in their new price range. “Supply is unchanged,” said Ed Pinto, director of the Housing Center at the American Enterprise Institute. “When you create the ability to buy more housing because you’re mispricing the risk, and there’s a constraint on supply—which we have—Economics 101 says if you increase demand and supply is constant, prices have to go up.” 

Plus, Pinto noted, policymakers in years past told Congress cross-subsidizing makes the market less efficient, encouraging more risk bankrolled by taxpayer-backed mortgage guarantors. “If you subsidize something, you will get more of it,” Pinto said. “The taxpayer is the one that’s going to lose here.”

Worth Your Time

  • When Russia invaded Ukraine, the head of the Wagner paramilitary group came to inmates around Russia with a pitch: “Freedom in exchange for six months of paid military service under Wagner’s command,” James Marson reports for the Wall Street Journal. Over the past year, tens of thousands of inmates have taken the deal—including former cop and convicted killer Yevgeny Nuzhin. On his second night on the front lines in Bakhmut, Nuzhin surrendered to the Ukrainians. “He later told the Journal he had planned to do that all along,” Marson writes. “Weeks later, Ukrainian military intelligence, which is in charge of prisoner exchanges, agreed to take custody of Mr. Nuzhin. Some of Maj. Harkaviy’s soldiers escorted Mr. Nuzhin to Dnipro, a nearby city, and handed him over [to the Russians]. ‘I’m alive. Everything’s OK. Everything will be all right,’ Mr. Nuzhin said on Nov. 1. On Nov. 13, Mr. Nuzhin was in another video posted on Telegram by a channel close to Wagner. It was captioned, ‘Hammer of Vengeance.’ Mr. Nuzhin appears to be kneeling with his head taped to a brick post. He identifies himself and says that he had wanted to switch sides in the war. Then, a man standing behind him delivers a sledgehammer blow to his head. Mr. Nuzhin collapses to the floor, and the man delivers a second blow. The Journal couldn’t verify the authenticity of the video.”

‘Who Needs a Glove?’

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • The Dispatch Book Club (🔒) is taking its talents to Dispatch Live (🔒) at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT tonight! If you read Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America 1927—or even if you didn’t—be sure to tune in for Sarah, Kevin, Grayson, and Haley’s discussion of the book. And come with questions! 
  • In the newsletters: Kevin applies the lessons (🔒) of Draco to the modern abortion debate, the Dispatch Politics team reports on the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary conference, and Nick warns that (🔒) Tucker Carlson’s ignominious departure from Fox News could actually be bad news for the country in the long term. 
  • On the podcasts:  Sarah and David break down all the latest Supreme Court action, including a Justice Alito dissent and upcoming tech cases. 
  • On the site today: Kevin argues that a mild winter hasn’t solved Europe’s long-term energy crisis, Alec reports on what fashion trends tell us about the economy, former Dispatch contributor Klon Kitchen writes that the Federal Trade Commission is undermining U.S. interests in Europe, and Leah Libresco Sargeant analyzes the failures of government aid programs to babies and new parents.

Let Us Know

Do you care about Tucker Carlson’s departure from Fox News? Will it matter?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.