After working in corporate America for most of my life over my 30-plus-year career in PR, I can attest to it being unforgiving. I’ve seen some great people throughout my career get the ax when something goes wrong. I've also seen a few of my superiors go who deserved it. Someone has to take the blame. Right or wrong, there’s always a fall guy.
In the past few days, big news broke — we’ll get to the bigger news in a moment. In the wake of Bud Light’s self-made disaster of a digital campaign with trans activist Dylan Mulvaney, two marketing executives (working in marketing departments most of my life, I know marketers are usually to blame) went on a “leave of absence” after boycotts of Bud Light by right-wing extremists — and our community, notably one called by The Advocate last week — saw sales of the brew plummet.
Parent company Anheuser-Busch, after releasing an atrocious wavering statement last week and then one by its CEO, put out another ridiculously worded mumbo-jumbo of words: “We have made some adjustments to streamline the structure of our marketing function to reduce layers so that our most senior marketers are more closely connected to every aspect of our brand activity.”
Translation: “We’re getting rid of creative thinkers, those who took a thoughtful risk to try and update the old fogey-ness of our brand to reach a younger demographic — consumers of the future. They will be replaced by longtime company executives who want the brand to remain as it is, fall behind other beer brands that market to a younger demographic, and one where Kid Rock and Ted Nugent continue as washed-up brand ambassadors rather than a hip, young trans woman with over 10 million youthful followers.”
Anheuser-Busch lost a huge opportunity to engage a younger, more open-minded audience, opting to put priority on its "now" bottom-line, and in the process alienating both old and young. Its future does not bode well.
For a television network, low ratings are only tolerated for so long, because advertisers only work with winners. And CNN’s retooled morning show, CNN This Morning, has been an epic failure, which means puny advertising dollars. The main reason for the failure of the show, perhaps, is all the controversy that longtime CNN anchor Don Lemon brought to early morning. News reports of his vindictiveness, temper, and sexist comments have bedeviled him consistently since the start of the year.
When he was canned Monday morning, he feigned surprise. “I am stunned after 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have the decency to tell me directly," he wrote on Twitter. "At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network. It is clear that there are some larger issues at play.”
Really, Don? The larger issue is that you were losing money for a major corporation, shrinking its bottom line, and in order to stem the bleed, it squeezed out a bad Lemon. Corporate America owes you nothing. And why would anyone be surprised that CNN unceremoniously dumped him? I can only imagine the visceral reaction he’s been getting from all the women at the network. And if the network gave him time to "sign off," who knows what the unpredictable Lemon would have said.
Then, drum roll please, came the news that shocked and elated us all, Fox News parting ways with its golden boy and America's biggest jerk, Tucker Carlson. First, I was not shocked in the least, and I actually predicted this would happen. Why? Well, Rupert Murdoch runs a giant corporation for stockholders who are all obsessed about what? You guessed it, the bottom ine. Fox wisely chose to settle the Dominion case without a jury trial; however, that included a whopping $787.5 million price tag. Inevitably, someone had to pay the price.
The male-dominated Fox News and the Murdoch-controlled News Corp. were not going to risk sounding sexist and lay the blame at the feet of either female fibber Maria Bartiromo or Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, particularly given Fox’s poor record when it comes to sexual harassment.
I’ve written many times over the last few years about how dangerous Carlson was to our community, so, there’s no reason to rehash the venom he seethed our way. He was deplorable, disgusting, despicable. His comments after the Club Q shooting were grotesquely sickening. He was an enemy to us, to decency and to honesty. He, Alex Jones, and Rush Limbaugh will surely all burn in hell together someday.
Keeping Carlson at Fox would have been a dangerous move for the company, mainly because of all the revelations of him knowingly lying that were broadcast, and most especially the text and emails involving Carlson and his hypocrisy. Furthermore, the Abby Grossberg case looms over Fox and Carlson. She was a producer for his show, and her attorney says they have 90 tapes of what could be explosive conversations of the horror that is the private Carlson. There might be something in those tapes — claiming his audience was stupid? — that further prompted Fox to give Carlson a firm boot.
Fox will most likely bite the bullet in the short term as viewers call for a boycott or stop watching in droves. By signing the Dominion settlement, Fox was looking at its bottom line. The continuous cycle of revelations that would have seeped out of a trial would have hammered its reputation and most likely created doubts in the minds of its audience — something that was already happening.
Dominion released so many of Carlson’s blabbermouth private messages, where he said he hated Donald Trump “passionately,” tore into former Trump attorney Sidney Powell with misogynist comments, and blasted Rudy Giuliani; yet he continued to spew the lies Trump and Powell were pedaling. Carlson’s credibility — as if he had any to begin with — was called into question.
Moreover, Fox was taught a huge lesson with the Dominion case. But what about Carlson? He continued repeating lies, and his goal of ginning up conspiracy theories in order to build up his ratings would continue to put Fox in some legal jeopardy, considering how open and shut the Dominion case was. There is a line out the door ready to sue Fox — and Carlson himself.
If you saw 60 Minutes on Sunday night, you would have seen a victim of Carlson’s who, in all probability, might now bring a suit against him. Carlson said Trump supporter Ray Epps was an FBI lackey who sparked the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Epps said, about Carlson, “He’s obsessed with me. He’s going to any means possible to destroy my life.”
For Fox, the settlement was smart, and Carlson’s departure an offshoot for a network that is desperately trying to hang on to to its own sinking credibility. Carlson was an albatross around its neck and a severe liability. There are other loudmouth liars who can step in for Carlson at Fox and who might be more careful about being libelous to individuals or corporations. While we can celebrate Carlson’s exit now, we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves.
Carlson will most likely be picked up by Newsmax or some fringe media outlet, or he may have his followers follow him to a video podcast, so he’s not going to go away, but will his audience dislike him now that he doesn't play for the home team? Or worse and scarier, does Carlson run for president?
Finally, the media is reporting that the firing of Carlson was sudden, which was the only way Fox could rid itself of him. If it had given him more airtime after announcing that he was leaving the network, God only knows what he would have said. Fox's decision to just rip the Band-Aid off was the only scenario that would work.
But make no mistake. If anything, Fox may go even more extremists in an effort to show its audience that Carlson wasn't an outlier. It might have to tack this way if it is to be Trump's mouthpiece in the 2024 election.
My heart goes out to the Anheuser-Busch marketing executives “on leave.” Don Lemon, unfortunately, created his own firing story arc. And as for Carlson, karma is a b*tch. Let’s hope, now that he's a private citizen, more people will be compelled to hold his feet to the fire and sue him for all the hurt and suffering he has caused. Maybe, by leaving him on his own, that’s what Fox is hoping for.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate.
Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.