What could Don Lemon, Tucker Carlson do next?

They have options, though they are unlikely to get the pay they did at the major cable networks.
Both Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson are out of jobs at CNN and Fox News, respectively. What will they do next? AP

Credit: Associ

Credit: Associ

Both Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson are out of jobs at CNN and Fox News, respectively. What will they do next? AP

Both Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson, who lost their posts within an hour of each other Monday from their respective cable networks, now have to decide their next career moves.

But they certainly don’t have to make any rash decisions given both were under contract. Both also hired the same aggressive Hollywood attorney Bryan Freedman to handle their exits and negotiate golden parachutes.

The New York Times, citing two unnamed people with direct knowledge of his deal, said Lemon has a contract through 2026. TMZ said Lemon was paid about $7 million a year.

Carlson’s contract was renewed in 2021, and people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal that he will be paid out for the rest of his contract, although it did not state how long that would be. He is making about $20 million a year, the paper said.

Neither Fox nor CNN would confirm the salary numbers.

Lemon, at age 57, is not close to retirement age. He worked for a decade in local TV news before joining CNN in 2006 as a correspondent out of Atlanta. He co-anchored a weekday show with Kyra Phillips but was then demoted to weekends.

In 2013, new CNN chief Jeff Zucker embraced Lemon’s outspoken ways and moved him to New York, where he eventually nabbed his own solo prime-time show in 2016. But when Zucker was ousted last year, new head honcho Chris Licht decided to move Lemon to mornings with two female co-hosts, an ill-fated move that lasted just six months.

Carlson, now 53, has moved around over the years. Early in his career as an iconoclastic Libertarian, he worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Review, The Weekly Standard, then The American Standard. CNN hired him in 2000, soon giving him a role on “Crossfire.”

He stayed at CNN for five years, segued to PBS for a year, then MSNBC for three years, before starting his own political news website The Daily Caller in 2010.

But his career pinnacle to date has been his seven years at Fox News, generating huge ratings, adapting to an audience hungry for his brand of immigration and racial grievance.

Both men have plenty of options, though they are unlikely to achieve comparable prestige and pay.

While previous Fox hosts who left — such as Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly — have created sizable platforms in radio and podcast land, they have not been able to match the amplified power that Fox News bestowed on them. Whatever Carlson does next could still be impactful given his fan base, but it’s doubtful he will draw the audiences he did on Fox, where he usually brought in 3 million viewers a night.

Lemon’s future is murkier. While he has fans, Carlson consistently drew much larger ratings.

“I could see both of them starting their own ventures,” said Vinnie Politan, an Atlanta-based Court TV host who used to work at HLN. “Their audiences will find them wherever they go and I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to work for themselves.”

Carlson could easily go back to The Daily Caller and create a show there, said Rich Hanley, associate journalism professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, N.J. “He’s part of the fabric there,” he said. “He doesn’t have to build something from scratch the way Glenn Beck did.”

Tony Harris, a former CNN anchor who now works for The History Channel, said he could envision Lemon joining a daytime syndicated talk show. “He would be more dynamic than Anderson Cooper was in that role. Even Piers Morgan seems to get shows,” he said.

Paul Caron, a former CNN employee who worked with Lemon in his early days there, said he could see Lemon land at NewsNation, the Nexstar Media Group operation that is seeking to expand its reach and last fall hired Lemon’s fellow former CNN prime-time host and close friend Chris Cuomo.

“NewsNation could certainly use a little heft,” Hanley said. “They could use another name to get them out of the lower tier of cable news. He will bring an audience with him.”

“I’m sure there’ll be a second life for him,” Caron said.

Eric Schiffer, a PR crisis and celebrity brand expert, said either of them could transfer some of their audience onto YouTube, especially Carlson.

“YouTube has continued to grow and build its monetization options,” Schiffer said. “Tucker could have millions of views immediately and generate significant revenue if he does something nightly. He won’t get the money he got at Fox, but he also will have no boss. He started his own company before so he’s used to running a business. He could pull this off.”

Carlson could land at smaller right-leaning cable networks such as OAN or NewsMax or the more mainstream NewsNation if he’s willing to take a massive pay cut.

Schiffer said Lemon has a tougher row to hoe because his brand took a hit after accusations of misogyny, especially his comments in February about presidential candidate Nikki Haley, 51, as not being in her prime, which raised the ire of many women.