Firing Tucker Carlson Is Meaningless Without Real Change at Fox News newsusface

Last week, Fox News reached a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. A trial that was expected to result in public consequences for Fox’s reprehensible conduct ended before it even got started. And this week, Tucker Carlson, a cornerstone of Fox’s contemptuous approach to the truth, has been let go by the network.

The network is in survival mode, trying to avoid further litigation and sweep its bad behavior under the rug.

I have some experience with this kind of situation. In 2016, I filed a retaliation and sexual harassment complaint against former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, forcing him to settle the case rather than be tried in court.

Fox has faced many setbacks in recent years, and we could all be forgiven if we asked, “How will this time be different?”

But there are some differences. When I settled my case with Fox, I received a public apology. When my settlement broke in the news, that apology was the headline. I can’t stress enough how meaningful that was for me. That’s what every person who has been wronged wants, an acknowledgement that the bad behavior inflicted real harm.

The Dominion settlement did not require Fox to include a public apology either or an admission of wrongdoing. Fox won’t have to broadcast retractions for lying about Dominion Voting Systems and the results of the 2020 election.

The big question is whether the changes made since the Dominion settlement—including Tucker Carlson’s firing—will be meaningful. We have not seen any apologies from Carlson for the wild conspiracy theories he has pushed on viewers, or the numerous lies that came out during discovery in the Dominion suit. His removal may be shocking to some, but it will only matter if it’s followed with the acknowledgement that the network has caused harm to our nation’s democratic principles, and to the integrity and journalistic ethics of a free press—namely, telling the truth, no matter what perspective one represents.

Since my case was resolved, Fox has repeatedly said that it has moved on from its toxic culture. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But we do know that since the Ailes years, Fox management and talent have continued to spin a web of lies to deceive viewers and confuse American voters, all harmful to the country. Thanks to discovery documents and to Abby Grossberg, a brave former Fox News employee, we have learned more about the network’s activities in the Dominion case, including how certain network hosts and executives supported false claims about Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat, but still gave airtime to conspiracy theorists they knew were not true, and openly placed the company’s earnings above honesty.

There is a significant difference between espousing conservative viewpoints, as an exchange of ideas that is necessary for public dialogue and telling mistruths to millions of viewers. The network has largely rewritten the rules of journalism to sow deception and mistruths in its reporting, and they have largely gotten away with it.

And as to corporate culture, as Grossberg alleges, certain corners of the network continue to be hotbeds of misogyny and toxicity.

Maybe the times are changing with Tucker Carlson’s ouster. His master class in distorting the truth caused distrust in credible news outlets around the globe, not to mention the most fundamental elements of our entire democratic system: our free elections and their outcomes. But if we are to believe the network has changed, it would require not only a top-to-bottom approach to cleaning house, from executives to on-air talent—but it would also need a total shift in culture that, whatever its political bent, respected and prioritized the truth, including the truth of my experience and others like me. If Fox were serious about change, they would restore a basic commitment to allowing everyone to have their say, even allowing myself and former employees to speak out for a much-needed dose of transparency.

It is hard to say whether all this is the beginning of a new era for Fox, or just another grand gesture to protect the company’s culture while protecting it from liability. But for real changes to take hold, Fox needs a genuine recommitment to journalism. Getting rid of one conspiracy monger, or all of them, might be big news and an extraordinary step. But if new faces are permitted to peddle the same lies, intentionally misleading the public by lying about the outcome of elections, the network will only further damage the foundations of our democracy and erode trusted institutions, including a free press. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fresh face on TV if it starts to spout the same lies.

Unless enormous change happens up and down the organization, including at the very top, then the ouster of Tucker Carlson—and any other potential scapegoats who told the same lies and whose departures may follow—is meaningless.

We have a long way to go in bringing Fox to justice, but gradually, through the cases of Abby Grossberg, Ray Epps, Dominion, and myself, we are shedding light on dark truths that were allowed to fester behind closed doors for far too long. By holding Fox accountable and bringing its secrets into the light of day, we get closer to a basic and instrumental goal as stated by reporters Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism: to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their government.

Gretchen Carlson is a journalist, author and advocate whose actions against workplace harassment at Fox News helped pave the way for the global #MeToo movement. Since leaving Fox, she co-founded the nonprofit Lift Our Voices, which has championed two landmark bipartisan laws signed by President Biden last year to eliminate NDAs and forced arbitration in cases of workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment.

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