In a shocking turn of events, Tucker Carlson and Fox News announced this week that the controversial host is leaving the network by mutual consent.

This comes just days after the news organization settled a legal defamation case with Dominion Voting Systems concerning its reporting of the 2020 US presidential election. This unexpected move raises the question of whether the network will move away from Carlson’s popular ‘fake news’ rhetoric.

The rise of fake news

The term ‘fake news’ refers to the dissemination of false information presented as factual news and has become a ubiquitous phrase in modern-day political discourse. It was popularized during the 2016 US presidential election when the phrase was extensively used by President Donald Trump and other political figures to sway public opinion.

Social media has played a significant role in the proliferation of fake news. Social media platforms have made it easier for individuals and organizations to disseminate fake news by targeting specific audiences with their messaging. Not only do the algorithms on these platforms show a user content that appeals to their interests and often confirms their biases and beliefs, but they also actively avoid showing users content that contradicts those beliefs. This makes it easier for organizations to spread attention-grabbing misleading information.

When people are exposed to news that confirms their existing beliefs and biases, they are less likely to consider alternative perspectives or engage in constructive dialogue with those who hold different views. As a result, ‘fake news’ has helped exacerbate the polarization of US politics.

The fake news behemoth

Despite the decline of traditional media viewership and the increase of distrust in traditional news sources, Fox News has dominated the US news media cycle throughout the fake news phenomenon. The organization became a go-to source for millions of Americans who seek conservative commentary, with many of its anchors and hosts reaching household-name status. The organization has received criticism for creating a platform that spews conservative propaganda, with hosts and guests pushing a political agenda at the expense of objective journalism.

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By GlobalData

Tucker Carlson is one of Fox News’ most-watched and polarizing figures, known for his provocative and controversial statements. Throughout his time with Fox, Carlson faced backlash for promoting conspiracy theories and spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.

After the result of the 2020 US presidential election, Carlson and other Fox News hosts made several claims of voter fraud and voting machine malfunctions. For example, on November 16, 2020, Carlson stated that “there’s no denying that the software used in voting machines across the country is deeply suspect. There are too many unanswered questions, too many discrepancies. And yet, we’re told that we must simply accept the election results, even though they make no sense.”

The shock exit of Carlson

As a result of these comments, Dominion Voting Systems, the electronic provider of voting machines in the US, filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News that was settled earlier this week for a reported $787m.

Despite the hefty bill and Carlson’s provocative comments, there was little indication the network was going to drop its most popular host. As a result, his departure has raised questions about the state of fake news in media today and whether the phenomenon is dying out.

Although unexpected, Carlson’s departure is likely a tactical, rather than an ideological or political, decision made by the Fox News executives. The network has plenty of controversial figures left on its roster and this decision does not signal a divergence away from its controversial and politically motivated reporting.

In addition, the ‘fake news’ phenomenon is not unique to Fox News. With a sizable audience, Carlson will be given the opportunity, whether on cable or online, to create his own platform and continue to spread his desired rhetoric.