Just about everyone in Washington has an opinion on Tucker Carlson losing his top-rated perch at Fox News. Democratic lawmakers, as well as anonymous officials at the Department of Defense who spoke to Politico, have unsurprisingly wished him good riddance. Donald Trump was of course torn up that the TV host was no longer on air, calling it a “big blow” to cable news, as did many of his loudest congressional allies. Senator Ron Johnson called Carlson’s exit a “huge loss,” Representative Lauren Boebert announced that she stands with Carlson, and Senator J.D. Vance hailed him “the most courageous person in American media.” 

After all, as much as Carlson’s show was crafted for a mass audience, the host appeared to fashion himself as some kind of MAGA-whisperer for Republicans. Whether it’s his push for Kevin McCarthy to create a “new Frank Church Committee” to investigate the FBI and intelligence community (which McCarthy eventually did do) or his call to end billions in aid to Ukraine (a position many right-wingers have taken), there’s always been a chicken-and-egg situation between Carlson’s monologues and the right-wing agenda on Capitol Hill. Carlson either emboldened hard-line stances, or hard-liners tuned in to figure out what position to stake out next. No wonder so many MAGA-aligned officials are so upset by his unceremonious exit.

But then there are the Republicans Carlson didn’t like. Notably, some in the Republican establishment—a set the host often disparaged to his millions of fans—are waving off his ouster as a non-story. 

Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican who recently called Carlson’s downplaying of the January 6 attack on the Capitol “bullshit,” basically said the host was irrelevant. “You have got to think about the scale—I know he had an audience of three million people. There are 330 million people in the country,” Tillis told Politico. Tillis insisted that while cable news hosts sway what lawmakers “think is wrong,” they have less impact on how they choose to “make things better” (think “noise-shaped air” from the television show Veep).

Senator John Thune, the second-ranking Senate Republican, argued Carlson might have been an influencer, but that it didn’t amount to much actual change. “National security issues, those are for most members a responsibility they take very seriously,” he told Politico. “And, yes, there are influencers out there. But I don’t think, one way or the other, that swings votes.”

Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican who Carlson dubbed “eye-patch McCain” due to his injured right eye and his support for upping US aid to Ukraine, was not so delicate. “I’ve shed many tears over Tucker Carlson losing the show—many, many tears,” he said in a statement to Politico that he noted was “really fucking sarcastic.”

Carlson’s ideological bent—most recently, at least—aligned far more with the isolationist paleoconservatism of Pat Buchanan than the neoconservatism that has dominated the GOP since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. This put him in direct conflict with many establishment Republicans, particularly over foreign policy. It also helped make him the most popular and influential movement ideologue in the naissance of Trump’s presidency in January 2017, just after Carlson, coincidentally, launched his show on Fox. He often vouched for the former president’s unorthodox foreign policy views, like his defense of Trump’s close relationship with Kim Jong Un and his shrugging off of Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination by the Saudi state, while pricking Senate minority leader Mitch McConnelltop Pentagon officials, and Bush-era holdovers like David Frum and Stephen Hayes. , 
  
But just as Trump hasn’t gone anywhere, Republicans like Crenshaw and Tillis who traded barbs with Carlson, likely aren’t rid of him yet. He already has experience creating his own streaming talk show and documentaries outside of prime time, and other conservative news networks are reportedly clamoring for his services. Moreover, chatter of Carlson’s potential as a White House contender has naturally increased since his Fox exit. As of now, though, no one else at the network has managed to strike fear, rage, or much emotion at all in the GOP establishment quite like Carlson, whose old 8 p.m. time slot is being filled by bench players while Fox searches for a long-term replacement.

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