Tucker Carlson’s rogue trip to Hungary in 2021 could have contributed to Fox News’ decision to can the controversial commentator this spring.
New accounts of Carlson’s prime-time ouster emerged in excerpts from journalist Brian Stelter’s forthcoming book, “Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy,” which were published by The Daily Beast on Monday.
Stelter’s reporting suggests that Carlson was in hot water with his Fox News bosses for years before his exit in April.
According to what The Daily Beast described as “an executive involved with the situation,” Carlson deliberately usurped his superiors when he took “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to Budapest, Hungary, without their permission in 2021.
The week abroad concluded in a cozy chat with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in which Carlson praised the autocrat for his anti-immigration, nationalist approach. During the trip, Carlson also spoke at the far-right political conference MCC Feszt.
Carlson’s “unapproved” trip may have been a tipping point for Fox executives, who already felt like the pundit was heavily flirting with authoritarianism.
Tucker Carlson speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 14, 2023. Excerpts from Brian Stelter’s book “Network of Lies" suggest Carlson was on the outs with his bosses at Fox News far long before his April exit.
“A tug-of-war was underway between people of good faith and all parties who wanted to protect American democracy, and those on the other side of the rope who tugged in an authoritarian direction,” Stelter wrote.
“Carlson’s unapproved trip to Hungary in 2021 was surely in the latter category. Carlson whipped his show up into an infomercial for Viktor Orban’s increasingly autocratic, patriarchal nation.”
The former Fox News headliner almost returned to Hungary for CPAC Budapest in 2023, but instead sent a video message after a Fox higher-up reportedly “reined him in.”
Despite ongoing tension between Carlson and execs, Fox News didn’t dismiss the anchor until after reaching a $787 million defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems earlier this year.
While Carlson repeatedly used his show to push baseless claims about Dominion interfering in the 2020 presidential election, private texts found during pre-trial discovery revealed that he had actually balked at the conspiracy theories that former President Donald Trump and his team were pushing.
Brian Stelter’s book “Network of Lies” will be released on Nov. 14.
Language has been updated to clarify how “Network of Lies” reportedly describes Carlson’s trip to Budapest.