Fox News commentators resign to protest Tucker Carlson documentary on Jan 6 Capitol attack

Two prominent Fox News contributors, Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, resigned from their positions, protesting the endorsement and airing of “Patriot Purge,” a three-part docuseries on the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection produced by Fox host and commentator Tucker Carlson. Hayes and Goldberg described the series as “a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery, and damning omissions.” 

Key Players

Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg joined Fox News in 2009. In October 2019, they founded The Dispatch, an online conservative news and opinion outlet. Both were previously editors at The Weekly Standard and National Review, and Goldberg writes a weekly column in the Los Angeles Times and is also a contributor on CNN and MSNBC.

Tucker Carlson is a conservative TV commentator and political pundit. He previously worked for CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before joining Fox News in 2009. In 2016, he started his own nightly political talk show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” A staunch on-air advocate for former President Donald Trump, Carlson is the most-watched prime-time personality on the network.

Further Details

Internally, Fox News was not spared from controversy surrounding the documentary. 

On Oct. 28, 2021, Geraldo Rivera, who has been a Fox correspondent since 2001, was quoted in The New York Times, saying, “Tucker’s wonderful, he’s provocative, he’s original, but — man oh man. There are some things that you say that are more inflammatory and outrageous and uncorroborated. And I worry that . . . I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate,” adding, “the record to me is pretty damn clear, that there was a riot that was incited and encouraged and unleashed by Donald Trump.” 

Rivera said of Carlson, “He’s my colleague. He’s my family. Sometimes you have to speak out about your family.”

A day later, Bret Baier, host of “Special Report with Bret Baier,” aired a segment by national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin about the investigation into the insurrection, dismissing Carlson’s characterization of a “false flag” attack on Jan. 6, 2021, allegedly conducted by the government to implicate the American right by having left-wing Americans pretend to be Trump supporters and storm the Capitol. 

Carlson’s “false flag” argument was highlighted in the trailer for the docuseries, which was released on October 28.

On November 1, 2021, the first episode of “Patriot Purge” aired on the Fox Nation streaming service. Carlson had said on air that the series was factually “rock solid.” 

But throughout the documentary, Carlson made false claims that the Biden administration is treating Trump supporters as domestic terrorists and actively stripping their rights; that Jan. 6, 2021, insurrectionists and rioters are being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba; and that the insurrection was a “false flag” operation.

On Nov. 7, 2021, Chris Wallace aired an interview on “Fox News Sunday” with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a strong critic of Trump and one of only two Republicans who agreed to serve on the House committee investigating the events of January 6. During the interview, she too rejected Carlson’s false claims. (A month later, Wallace resigned from Fox and joined CNN.)


Hayes and Goldberg condemn Fox News and ‘Patriot Purge’

On Nov. 21, 2021, Hayes and Goldberg published a piece in The Dispatch titled “Why We Are Leaving Fox News,” saying that while they believed Fox News still engages in real journalism with responsible conservatives providing valuable analysis, “the voices of the responsible are being drowned out by the irresponsible.” 

That same day, The Times quoted Goldberg saying he and Hayes had stayed on until the documentary because, through internal conversations, there was a sense that the network would attempt to recover some independence from Trump’s strain of politics.  But according to Goldberg, the documentary was “a sign that people have made peace with this direction of things, and there is no plan, at least that anyone made me aware of, for a course correction.”

Regarding Carlson, Hayes and Goldberg wrote, “If a person with such a platform shares such misinformation loud enough and long enough, there are Americans who will believe—and act upon—it.”

On Nov. 22, 2021, NPR quoted Hayes saying, “[Carlson presents a] narrative that’s contradicted by certainly the vast collection of legal documents charging those who participated in January 6th, the broad reporting by a wide variety of news outlets on what happened on January 6th then and in the time since, and contradicted in part by Fox News’ own news site and the reporting that people on the news side have done.”

Carlson responds

Carlson told NPR that the departure of Hayes and Goldberg “will substantially improve the channel.” 

He also ridiculed them for accusing him of peddling conspiracy theories, writing, “These are two of the only people in the world who still pretend the Iraq War was a good idea. No one wants to watch commentary that stupid.”