Mickey Kaus wrote a column on Monday titled "How Fox News makes it easy for amnesty." It skewered conservatives' favorite cable channel, saying that Fox has been spending too much time on "semi-hysterical" coverage of ISIS, and not enough time rallying opposition to President Obama's proposed immigration overhaul.
Kaus published the column on Tucker Carlson's conservative web site The Daily Caller, his online home for the past four years. But when he looked on the site hours later, it was gone.
Kaus had apparently run afoul of Carlson's "no trashing Fox News" rule. At least that's what he says Carlson told him.
Carlson, the site's editor in chief, doubles as a commentator on Fox and the co-host of the weekend editions of its morning show "Fox & Friends." It's an unusual arrangement, to be sure.
Kaus resigned from The Daily Caller on Tuesday and spoke to Politico about his decision.
When I followed up with him on Wednesday, he said one of his lingering questions is: Did The Daily Caller's readers "know about this rule of Tucker's? If there are No-Go zones, shouldn't readers/viewers at least be told?"
Carlson did not respond to my request for comment, but he previously told Politico, "Mickey is a great guy, and one of the few truly independent thinkers anywhere. I'm sorry to see him go."
Among other things, the episode reiterates the dominance of the Fox News Channel in conservative circles.
"It's a larger problem on the right: Everybody is scared of Fox," Kaus told Politico. "Fox is their route to a high-profile public image and in some cases stardom."
Kaus, a veteran blogger, signed up with The Daily Caller in 2011. At the time Carlson said "even when I disagree with him -- which is regularly -- I can't stop reading. We're thrilled to have him."
Kaus posted his own pieces without the involvement of an editor, and had a great degree of autonomy. But after he posted two pieces that were critical of Fox, both of them in 2013, he said "an editor in the chain of command (not Tucker) had told me this was a sensitive subject."
(2013 was the year Carlson became a co-host of the weekend "Fox & Friends" show.)
"We had a back and forth," Kaus said, "but it was inconclusive and the pieces were not taken down or changed."
One of the blog posts, titled "Time for a new Fox?" was also about immigration reform coverage, and said "Wouldn't it be time for a new Fox anyway? That lineup has been stale for years."
Kaus's Fox-themed blog post this week received a much stronger response. Carlson "wrote me an email saying I couldn't 'trash Fox' on the site because he worked there," Kaus said, relaying the sequence of events.
After Kaus saw that his piece was gone, and saw Carlson's email explaining why, "I wrote him an email saying, in effect, is that really the decision, because if it is, I'll have to quit."
According to Kaus, Carlson "responded with a very nice email saying he didn't want to lose me, but he had to stick with the no-trash-Fox rule, one of only two rules he had (he said)."
What was Carlson's second rule? "No attacking the families of people who work there," Kaus said, adding, "I don't know when that would ever apply."
Kaus said he concluded that "not criticizing Fox was too big a restriction to work with, given what I write about."
He has since republished his "Fox makes it easy for amnesty" blog post on his own site, KausFile.com. His previous web home, KausFiles.com, still automatically redirects to The Daily Caller's site.
His piece hits Fox from the right: he wrote that the channel is not producing adequate "coverage designed to alert and inform opposition to Obama on the issue" of immigration.
"Fox is supposed to be the feisty opposition network," he wrote. "You'd think it would wage a rousing campaign against Obama's executive actions on immigration, which are surely wildly unpopular among its viewers, both because of their ends (de facto legalizing of illegals) and their means (presidential overreach). You'd think that. But you would be wrong."