Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson declared, “We’re back,” saying on Tuesday that he was starting a new show on Twitter, suggesting an amicable separation with the network was being negotiated, and that he was still under contract, broken.
Mr. Carlson did not elaborate on when his new project would begin or what it would offer. The many unanswered questions underscore the uncertainty surrounding his future — which will see him stripped of Fox News’ prime-time platform for the rest of his career.
Among the possibilities: Fox could end up thwarting the host’s attempt to return to a prominent role in conservative media.
Since Mr. Carlson was taken off the air last month, Fox has been negotiating details of Mr. Carlson’s exit from the network, and Fox representatives had no comment.
On Monday, Mr. Carlson spoke with Fox executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch about the possibility of exiting the company, according to a person familiar with the matter.
On Tuesday, Mr. Carlson made the remarks on Twitter — a platform run by Elon Musk, a provocateur who shares a similar pattern to combative, contrarian moderators — including directly addressing A three-minute monologue from the camera. The video may have violated the terms of his contract with Fox, which prohibits Mr. Carlson from hosting shows on alternate networks.
Andy Lee, an entertainment attorney at Foley & Lardner, said one way Fox is trying to stop Mr. Carlson from releasing new videos is by seeking an injunction. But the network must convince a judge that Mr. Carlson is causing irreparable harm to the network, such as by damaging its reputation or leaking sensitive information. It must also show that it is likely to win at trial, another hurdle.
Mr. Carlson could argue against all of these arguments, and also argue that his Twitter videos are protected by the First Amendment.
“The burden of this remedy is high, but people get injunctions all the time,” Mr Lee said.
Tucker Carlson’s attorney, Brian Friedman, did not respond to a request for comment.
In response to Mr. Carlson’s tweet, Mr. Musk release “We have not signed an agreement of any kind,” he said on Twitter, adding that Mr Carlson would “subject to the same rules and rewards for all content creators”.
On Tuesday, Carlson began his monologue with a criticism of journalism, which he said fails to tell the truth. And he appears to have issued a veiled threat to reveal the inner workings of the various media companies in which he has held various roles over the past 30 years.
“After more than 30 years of development, we can tell you a story,” said Mr. Carlson, who skipped his usual coat and tie for a button-down plaid shirt. He recorded the video at his studio in Maine, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In the video, Mr. Carlson does little to explain what his new show might contain, other than to say it’s similar to “a show we’ve been doing for the last six-and-a-half years,” a reference to his 8 p.m., Fox News show “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Mr Carlson said “freedom of speech” would be a theme of the show, calling it “the primary right you have”.
“See you later,” Mr. Carlson said. He also launched a website called TuckerCarlson.com, promising subscribers “instant updates” on when and where they can tune in to the former Fox News host.
When Mr Musk bought Twitter for $44bn last October, he justified the high price by saying he was protecting “free speech” and would undo many of the efforts made by a company he believed had become too leftist. Content moderation decisions – skewed. He welcomed back many previously suspended or banned users, including known white nationalist accounts. Researchers reported more hate speech on the site, and many advertisers fled.
Last month, Mr. Musk spoke on Mr. Carlson’s Fox show about his ownership of Twitter. He described the company’s financial stress, noting that he had just halved the company’s internal valuation to about $20 billion.
“But some things are priceless,” Mr. Musk said. “So whether I lose money or not is a secondary issue compared to securing the strength of a democracy, which is the bedrock of how a democracy works.”
That interview will be Mr. Carlson’s last on Fox. The following week, shortly after Fox settled part of a defamation case involving Mr. Carlson for $787.5 million, the network canceled his hit show.
Mr. Carlson’s personal text messages, filed by Dominion Voting Systems as part of a court case, have become a major source of embarrassment for Fox News. It was revealed that Mr Carlson had disparaged former President Donald J Trump as a “diabolical force” and a “destroyer”.
Later, in a text message withheld from Fox’s public records on the case, Mr. Carlson described how he recently watched a video of a group of men beating up an “anti-fascist kid.” “This is not how white people fight,” he wrote to one of his producers, expressing racial entitlement. He went on to say that he wanted the group to kill the man before realizing he had gone too far.
It was unclear whether Mr. Carlson’s show would be broadcast live or recorded, and in which format it would be broadcast on Twitter.
It was unclear whether Mr. Musk would pay for the show’s production or compensate Mr. Carlson.
One option for Mr Musk could be to put Mr Carlson’s show behind Twitter’s paywall. Mr. Musk has pushed creators to use Twitter to distribute their content exclusively, and the company recently launched a subscription feature that Mr. Musk hopes will contribute meaningful revenue, freeing the platform from its reliance on advertising.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Mr. Musk said the “rewards” available to Mr. Carlson “meant subscription and ad revenue share (coming soon) as a function of subscriber count and content-related ad views.”
Mr. Carlson can not only lure older users to sign up for Twitter, but also get them to subscribe to exclusive content.
But giving Mr. Carlson a prominent platform could risk further alienating many national brands, resulting in less ad revenue for Twitter.