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Tucker Carlson: Is His Big Move to Twitter a Mistake?

Tucker Carlson appeared to announce Tuesday that he was bringing his show to Twitter. But Elon Musk denied that any such deal had been struck. 

Tucker Carlson. Image: Creative Commons.
Tucker Carlson speaking with attendees at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. By Gage Skidmore.

Tucker Carlson appeared to announce Tuesday that he was bringing his show to Twitter. But Elon Musk denied that any such deal had been struck. 

What Is Tucker Carlson Doing?

On Tuesday afternoon, what appeared to be some big media news broke: That Tucker Carlson, about two weeks after his firing by Fox News, would be launching a new show, streaming directly on Twitter. 

In a three-minute video posted to the social network Tuesday, Carlson — after a long preamble about the news being full of lies — declared, “We’re back,” and praised Twitter as “the place where our national conversation incubates and develops.” 

“Starting soon we’ll be bringing a new version of the show we’ve been doing for the last six and a half years to Twitter,” Carlson said in the video, which in its first seven hours had 5.2 million views, although the tweet itself had 51.5 million. 

The implication after that was that Carlson had reached some type of deal with Elon Musk-led Twitter, in which Musk had agreed to write a check of some significant amount to gain Carlson’s exclusive services. This would grant Carlson a new program in which he was unencumbered by any of the restrictions he had at Fox, starting with lawyers and executives supervising him. 

Reaching such a deal would represent a coup for Musk’s social network — which earlier this spring was reportedly worth about half of the $4 billion Musk had paid for it last year — even as it gave Twitter an even closer association with the political right. 

Elon Musk Responds

However, Musk soon clarified that in reply to Carlson’s video. 

While he started off by stating that “on this platform, unlike the one-way street of broadcast, people are able to interact, critique and refute whatever he or anyone may say,” Musk also said that “I also want to be clear that we have not signed a deal of any kind whatsoever. Tucker is subject to the same rules & rewards of all content creators.”

Semafor went into some detail about how Carlson’s media plans might work. 

“Tucker prioritizes influence. Twitter allows him to not just be another podcaster, and get in front of a large, influential audience,” a “person familiar with his thinking,” told the outlet. “He can get back to talking about the news quickly there.”

The story added that Carlson will be joined by multiple staffers from his Fox show, including executive producer Justin Wells, who was let go the same day he was. 

The story also said there’s a chance the arrival of Carlson on Twitter may alienate some of the platform’s advertisers. 

“This is yet another example of Elon Musk’s Twitter being purposely tone deaf when it comes to advertisers’ concerns about content moderation under the guise of free speech and to his financial detriment,” ad executive Lou Paskalis told the site. “He is now the undisputed master of self-inflicted wounds in that regard. I doubt he’s pursuing Rachel Maddow or any other left-leaning pundit as a follow-up to Tucker Carlson.”

In addition, Semafor cofounder Ben Smith doubts whether that type of long-form video could work on the Twitter platform. 

A former effort that Smith worked on for Buzzfeed, he wrote, “ ran into a fatal conflict with the platform’s core mechanics.” He quoted a former Twitter employee who stated that “the core issue with attempting to shift Twitter toward television is the contrast between the requirement that you sit still to watch a show and the basic Twitter experience of scrolling.”

Meanwhile, Carlson is still in negotiations with his former employee Fox News, and it’s unclear whether Carlson’s Twitter plans would breach any no-compete clause in his Fox contract. Fox News has lost significant viewership since Carlson’s departure. 

Axios reported Tuesday that Carlson is planning to “torch” Fox News. The story, published before the Twitter video, stated that “Carlson and Elon Musk had a conversation about working together, but didn’t discuss specifics.”

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Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.