It’s been a rough week for cable newscasters, or those who masquerade as such. This past week saw the firing of not one, but two long time personalities from rival networks. The dismissal of CNN’s Don Lemon and the “parting ways” of Tucker Carlson with Fox saw them being the news instead of reporting, or in some cases, commenting on it.
But they are just the latest reporters who became the news.
Lemon and Carlson both landed themselves in hot water for similar reasons. For Lemon, he allegedly viewed the morning news show as his with his female colleagues as the back-up singers in his act. For Carlson, while it may or may not be tied to Fox’s caving in to the Dominion lawsuit, it was his verbal abuse of fellow employees that possibly led to his departure.
Oddly enough they have retained the same attorney to fight their respective dismissals.
Courting controversy is nothing new for many in the media. But is seems there have been a lot more of them in recent years. Perhaps because there are more news outlets, or there is a brighter light being shown on them after being labeled Fake News by the previous administration.
Here are some of the former news reporters who became the news:
When Chris Licht took over CNN, he vowed to return the network to reporting the news and less on commentary. He viewed those who were expressing their opinions as stating the facts as a divisive issue, and wanted the focus on what he called old fashioned journalism.
Don Lemon wasn’t shy about giving his opinion, whether it be about the previous administration, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality and a wide variety of other topics. Perhaps it was his reliance on opinion that resulted in his being moved from a prime time slot to reporting the morning news as part of a revamped CNN format.
While he denied it, many saw this move as a demotion for Lemon. Perhaps it was a building resentment that made him act the way he did towards his new co-anchors, but his misogyny became an issue as he reportedly bullied his female counterparts. While his one co-anchor, Poppy Harlow, was a veteran at the anchor desk, Kaitlyn Collins typically was outside the newsroom as a White House correspondent. And during the roughly six months she was teamed with Lemon, she was seen reporting remotely far more often than her anchor savvy colleagues.
Perhaps this was by design as others in the newsroom noted the friction between the anchors. One notable example was when Lemon appeared to scold Collins for interrupting him.
But it may have been Lemon’s comment about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley that was the last straw. His declaration that Haley wasn’t “in her prime” drew immediate scorn from his co-anchors, resulting in a brief suspension and forced apology from Lemon.
He returned to the anchor desk and assumed all was well until he was informed by his agent that he was being let go by the network where he had been a fixture for 17 years. After tweeting that he was shocked at his firing, Lemon has since been silent.
Whether it was swapping conspiracy theories with the My Pillow guy or hawking a product that sheds its light where the sun doesn’t usually shine, Tucker was the right-wing’s media darling. With his red-faced rants and fake moral indignation he was must-see viewing for any MAGA loyalist.
After burning his bridges at CNN and MSNBC, Tucker was able to seize on his opportunity to shine in his own right thanks to yet another scandal to be mentioned later. And seize upon it he did, attacking those on the left like a ravenous tiger pouncing on a gazelle.
And attack them he did, with the hard hitting, fact-based fervor that only a true journalist can muster.
If anything, Carlson was known for creating mountains out of molehills by taking non-issues and making them the latest raison d’etre for his easily angered viewers. Among other things, he attacked Big Bird for supporting COVID vaccines, went after the green M & M for changing from high heels to sneakers, and even Legos for introducing characters with disabilities.
Yes, Tucker was certainly on top of what was important.
But, he did discuss issues that were important to his audience. He repeatedly catered to his White supremacists followers by attacking Democrats over the Southern Border, claiming it was a clandestine effort to promote their Liberal agenda through something called “The Great Replacement”, which entailed overwhelming the White population with hordes of immigrants who would turn America into a non-White wasteland.
He also had guests who regularly claimed that children were being indoctrinated through Critical Race Theory, which was teaching them to hate their White heritage. They attacked educators even further with outlandish claims that teachers were grooming students to become victims of sexual abuse, or that those very same teachers were in fact the abusers.
But Tucker’s greatest strength was in conducting fawning interviews with Donald Trump while he tried to reshape the January 6th insurrection as a normal tourist visit through the use of selectively edited videos. Both his support of Trump and his blatant denial of the insurrection prompted a narrative that was a danger to democracy.
Then came the Dominion lawsuit where it was revealed that it was all an act. While his on-air persona was regularly touting a rigged system and voter fraud, uncovered text messages showed that he both hated Trump and knew his claims of malfunctioning voting machines were a lie.
Even these damning revelations were not enough to get Tucker fired. Instead, it was the trove of unearthed text messages that the Dominion lawsuit exposed about his fellow employees and even his superiors. They were vulgar, racist and even misogynistic. Although the texts regarding the lies about Dominion led to their $787.5 million settlement, it was the personal attacks that Carlson engaged in that ultimately led to his demise.
Fox had its powerhouse duo of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. CNN had the one-two punch of Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon. Now, three out of the four are no longer with their respective networks, and it was Cuomo who led the way out the door.
With his often combative interview style, Cuomo wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions, nor did he shy away from challenging those who would attempt to hijack his interviews by launching into their own personal diatribes, such as former White House advisor Kellyanne Conway. For this reason, many on the right sought to avoid being questioned by Cuomo and instead headed over to the more friendly confines of Fox to air their biased views.
Yet Cuomo wasn’t without his faults. His temper sometimes got the best of him even outside the studio. You could see flashes of anger as some guests refused to respond to his questions, which often bordered on interrogations.
But it was this that attracted his viewers. While he typically lagged behind his Fox counterparts who mistakenly believed ratings equaled facts, he was able to hold his own for many years, transitioning from an ABC reporter to a morning anchor to his own nighttime show.
It was when he got involved in helping his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, during the latter’s sexual harassment scandal, that Chris Cuomo met his downfall. While he told his bosses he was distancing himself from his brother’s issues, he was secretly supplying him with insider information that, in the end, was of no help at all.
It was this lying to his bosses that led to his abrupt departure.
He has since landed a gig on the lesser known NewsNation, but the lack of outlets is limiting his once broader following.
A product of Fox head Roger Ailes’ “Good Old Boys” club, O’Reilly was already a well established name in news prior to his hiring by Fox. It was his reputation for being what was once the motto of the network, Fair and Balanced, that made him the most popular personality on the network, and maybe all of cable news.
So, when O’Reilly was accused of a series of sexual misconduct allegations, something he denies to this day, it led to his being fired. Despite the network previously defending him, and even reaching settlements with some of his past accusers, the higher-ups apparently had enough of his actions.
It was O’Reilly’s firing that opened the door for the aforementioned Tucker Carlson, and led to the network’s Fair and Balanced approach to be replaced by right-wing conspiracy theories, causing it to be labeled Donald Trump’s propaganda network.
Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly
Although Gretchen and Tucker share the same last name, they are not related, and definitely do not share the same approach when it comes to reporting the news. Gretchen Carlson was known for her integrity as well as her hard-hitting style, which reflected Fox’s former motto. She also knew how to stand up for herself, which made her unique among the other women at Roger Ailes’ version of the network.
The former Miss America was fired from Fox News after 11 years for allegedly refusing the sexual advances of her then boss, Roger Ailes. She then sued Ailes and won. The revelations exposed at the trial resulted in Ailes' firing as his Good Old Boys approach was uncovered. At the time, Carlson was working alongside Bill O’Reilly and may have had a hand in his dismissal.
Carlson became a fierce advocate for the #Me Too movement. She fought to overturn the corporate policy of forcing women to enter into binding arbitration agreements which more often than not included non-disclosure agreements when they accused their superiors of sexual harassment.
Unlike Carlson, and the other previously mentioned former members of the media, Megyn Kelly resigned her position because she received a more lucrative offer from another network. Her mega-deal to join NBC was shocking considering her on-air persona while with Fox.
But, as it turns out, NBC viewers aren’t as forgiving. She was mocked by the Today Show audience she was brought in to appeal to following the dismissal of yet another disgraced anchor. After several attempts to rebrand her, she quietly disappeared from the airwaves, but can still be heard on the subscription satellite radio network, Sirius.
None of the previously mentioned members of the media has had as spectacular a fall from grace as the once venerated Matt Lauer. Accusations of rape led to him losing his job, his marriage and his reputation. The man many regarded as the most trusted voice in media shattered the hearts of his viewers when these allegations were revealed.
Since his firing, Lauer has withdrawn from public life. Whatever his future plans are, only he knows.
Lying on your résumé can get you fired, but regularly embellishing your accomplishments on the evening news can apparently only get you demoted. Such is the case with NBC’s Brian Williams.
The once revered network anchor occupied the same seat as the legendary Tom Brokaw and iconic David Brinkley. Along with Walter Cronkite, these were the most respected figures in news, if not in all America. So, when it turned out Williams’s story of courage under fire was a fabrication, it resulted in his being removed from the anchor desk and being sent to what was a media gulag, the much lesser-known NBC satellite, MSNBC.
Unlike many of the previously mentioned media personalities, Williams has gained some measure of redemption. His status at the liberal-leaning network has grown as he regains some of the respect he once had.
Reporting on the news is meant to be an honor. These members of the Fourth Estate have often been treated as trusted members of the family thanks to the standards set by Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and others. So, when this trust is broken, the backlash can often be swift and fierce. The one thing they do not desire is to become the news instead of reporting it.