Two Fox News contributors have quit the network over Tucker Carlson’s Patriot Purge, a documentary about the deadly Capitol attack.
In an open letter, Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg said: “Fox News still does real reporting, and there are still responsible conservatives providing valuable opinion and analysis. But the voices of the responsible are being drowned out by the irresponsible.
“A case in point: Patriot Purge, a three-part series hosted by Tucker Carlson.”
As Hayes and Goldberg noted on the Dispatch, an outlet they founded in 2019, Patriot Purge showed on the Fox Nation streaming service but was promoted on Fox News.
The three-part series recycles conspiracy theories about the Capitol attack, in which supporters of Donald Trump attacked Congress on 6 January in an attempt to overturn his election defeat by Joe Biden.
Hayes and Goldberg, formerly writers with the Weekly Standard and the National Review, said the series was “presented in the style of an exposé, a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism. In reality, it is a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery and damning omissions.”
Goldberg told the New York Times he and Hayes had stayed on at Fox News in the hope it would recover independence from Trump.
But as goes the Republican party, so goes Fox News. In their resignation letter, Hayes and Goldberg wrote: “Over the past five years, some of Fox’s top opinion hosts amplified the false claims and bizarre narratives of Donald Trump or offered up their own in his service. In this sense, the release of Patriot Purge wasn’t an isolated incident, it was merely the most egregious example of a longstanding trend.”
Goldberg told the Times the Carlson documentary was “a sign that people have made peace with this direction of things, and there is no plan, at least, that anyone made me aware of for a course correction.
“Now, righting the ship is an academic question. The Patriot Purge thing meant: OK, we hit the iceberg now, and I can’t do the rationalisations any more.”
Fox News did not comment. The Times said a spokeswoman “sent data showing that [political] independents” watch the network.
NPR cited five sources “with direct knowledge” as saying Hayes and Goldberg’s resignations “reflect larger tumult within Fox News over Carlson’s series … and his increasingly strident stances”. The same report named Bret Baier and Chris Wallace as senior anchors whose objections “rose to Lachlan Murdoch”, the chairman and chief executive of Fox Corporation.
Murdoch did not comment. Last week his father, Rupert Murdoch, said it was “crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in … debate, but that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past. The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future.”
But Carlson dominates primetime. He told the Times the resignations of Hayes and Goldberg were “great news” and said: “Our viewers will be grateful.”
Carlson is due on Monday to broadcast an interview with Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who was found not guilty on all counts on Friday, in his trial for shooting dead two men and wounding another during protests for racial justice in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
Carlson has also made a documentary with Rittenhouse, an enterprise Rittenhouse’s lawyer has said he opposed.
Hayes told the Times he had been disturbed when a man at a recent event staged by Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump group, asked: “When do we get to use the guns?”
“That’s a scary moment,” Hayes said. “And I think we’d do well to have people who at the very least are not putting stuff out that would encourage that kind of thing.”