A more interesting and by no means incompatible possibility is that Beck’s disgusting lies, apocalyptic fantasies, endless Hitler and Stalin comparisons, and persistent use of racist and anti-Semitic tropes (faithfully chronicled by the indispensable Media Matters) have become a bit much for Ailes and the rest of the front office. I’m not suggesting that their consciences were bothering them, obviously, but surely they understand that Beck has not been helpful to the Fox News “brand.” I realize that “Fair and Balanced” is not meant to be taken literally—it’s a taunt, not a creed—but doesn’t Beck stretch it nearly to the snapping point?
There may also be a management problem, a problem of staff morale. For a news professional, even one of conservative inclinations, Fox is a problematic place to work. In addition to suffering the humiliation of having to slant one’s reporting to serve the interests of an increasingly unhinged Republican Party, Fox employees cannot help but be aware of the contempt and/or pity, tacit and/or open, of their peers. I suspect that this problem is at least as severe at the peon level—bookers, interns, researchers, receptionists, coffee fetchers, mailroom guys, etc.—as it is for correspondents and producers. Just getting rid of Beck won’t remove the air quotes from around “Fox News,” of course. But for members of the company rank and file, Beck’s departure could mean a slight reduction in the percentage of people encountered in the course of a day’s work who, upon hearing “I’m with Fox News,” physically recoil.