Fox News star Jeanine Pirro failed her way up into a coveted seat on the most-watched cable-news show in America. And Tucker Carlson’s lengthy rap sheet of insubordination with Fox News brass extended way beyond his election conspiracy-mongering and into international politics.
These are some of the revelations unearthed in Brian Stelter’s new book, Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy, due out next Tuesday, parts of which were shared exclusively with Confider.
First, the Pirro bit: Confider readers may recall how the blustery former judge was named in the Dominion lawsuit as being a key booster of unhinged election lies on Fox’s air. Less than a year after the suit was filed, Pirro’s weekend show, Justice With Judge Jeanine, was ended and she was named as a permanent co-host on The Five, Fox’s 5 p.m. panel gabfest.
The move was widely viewed as a promotion for Pirro—indeed, she instantly became a fixture on what is now the highest-viewed show in all of cable news—but as it turns out, her fancy new gig was supposed to be a demotion.
Stelter reports: “‘Pirro was a problem,’ two sources said, using the same language and citing what Dominion found through the discovery process, namely that Pirro’s stubborn, slavish Trumpiness clashed with Fox execs who’d grown tired of her histrionic shenanigans. She submitted drafts of her opening monologue ahead of time, but when higher-ups dared to suggest tweaks, she was liable to accuse them of censorship. She caused headaches week after week. To put it bluntly, ‘nobody wanted to deal with her,’ one of the sources said. Her own executive producer called her a ‘reckless maniac.’
“Scott had an open conservative seat on The Five, so by moving Pirro there, she solved two problems at once. Pirro was far easier to manage on a five-person talk show—she wasn’t writing monologues or picking guests anymore. She was also reaching a larger audience, five days a week, than she was on Saturdays. But it was pointed out to me that The Five is not the cushiest job for a seventy-something former prosecutor to hold. Pirro was now in the studio five days a week and sharing the stage with the likes of the grandstanding Jesse Watters. Solo-hosting once a week was definitely easier for her—but harder on the managers and lawyers.”
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Elsewhere in Network of Lies, Stelter reveals another previously unreported instance in which Tucker Carlson deliberately usurped the authority of his Fox News bosses and further contributed to his eventual exit.
The far-right firebrand star’s 2021 visit to Budapest, where he filmed an entire week of shows fawning over Hungary’s autocratic president Viktor Orbán, was done entirely without Fox permission, an executive involved with the situation told Stelter, who further writes: “A tug-of-war was under way 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. Carlson’s unapproved trip to Hungary in 2021 was surely in the latter category. Carlson whipped his show up into an infomercial for Viktor Orbán’s increasingly autocratic, patriarchal nation.”
The disgraced Fox host was set to return to Hungary for CPAC’s Budapest gathering in 2022, Stelter reports, “but someone at Fox, I was told, reined him in, and he merely sent a videotaped message.” In return, “Orbán praised Carlson and said ‘programs like his should be broadcasted day and night. Or as you say 24/7.’” Neither Carlson nor a rep for Fox News responded to requests for comment.
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