The trailer for Tucker Carlson’s special about the Jan. 6 mob at the U.S. Capitol landed online Oct. 27, and that night Jonah Goldberg sent a text to his business partner, Stephen Hayes: “I’m tempted just to quit Fox over this.”
“I’m game,” Hayes replied. “Totally outrageous. It will lead to violence. Not sure how we can stay.”
The full special, “Patriot Purge,” appeared on Fox’s online subscription streaming service days later. And last week, the two men, who are both paid Fox News contributors, finalized their resignations from the network.
In some ways, their departures should not be surprising: It’s simply part of the new right’s mopping up operation in the corners of conservative institutions that still house pockets of resistance to Donald Trump’s control of the Republican Party. Goldberg, a former National Review writer, and Hayes, a former Weekly Standard writer, were stars of the pre-Trump conservative movement. They clearly staked out their positions in 2019 when they founded The Dispatch, an online publication that they described as “a place that thoughtful readers can come for conservative, fact-based news and commentary.” It now has nearly 30,000 paying subscribers.
Their departures also mark the end of a lingering hope among some at Fox News — strange as this is for outsiders to understand — that the channel would at some point return to a pre-Trump reality that was also often hyperpartisan, but that kept some distance from Republican officials. Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, recently deplored Trumpism while acting as if — as Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien noted — he didn’t run the company.
The reality of Fox and similar institutions is that many of their leaders feel that the tight bond between Trump and their audiences or constituents leaves them little choice but to go along, whatever they believe. Fox employees often speak of this in terms of “respecting the audience.” And in a polarized age, the greatest opportunities for ratings, money and attention, as politicians and media outlets left and right have demonstrated, are on the extreme edges of American politics.