The speculation about why Fox News “parted ways” with Tucker Carlson, its most watched host, has ranged from Carlson’s role in the multimillion-dollar settlement with Dominion, to a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by a former staffer, to the father of four being too religious.

Now The New York Times is reporting that an incendiary text obtained in discovery for the Dominion lawsuit led to the split.

Citing unnamed sources, the Times published a text message attributed to Carlson and sent to a producer on Jan. 7, 2021. The article said the text “set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox” and “contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Mr. Carlson’s firing.”

Carlson’s supporters, however, are saying the leaks are part of a smear campaign. On her podcast Tuesday, former Fox employee Megyn Kelly said that there are people within Fox who “want him destroyed.”

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The text, in which Carlson described watching three white men jump an “Antifa kid” (whose race is not specified) has been described by some on social media as racist because he says, “That’s not how white men fight.” The Times report said that the text “revealed more about his views on racial superiority,” and Keith Olbermann tweeted that it was a “racist smoking gun.”

But others noted the the full message revealed a moral complexity that is being ignored by those who are gloating about the release. Alyssa Farah Griffin, a CNN commentator and co-host of “The View,” described the text as a “journey.” Carlson talks about being troubled by his initial reaction to what he had seen, saying “somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be.”

The text also said: “I should remember that somewhere somebody loves this kid and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?”

Neither Fox nor Carlson issued a response to the Times’ report.

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