Fox’s board of directors and executives discovered salacious, redacted private messages from former host Tucker Carlson the day before the trial for Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox was set to start, The New York Times reports.
Though Fox’s trial lawyers had these messages, which are reportedly worse than the anchor’s discriminatory, inflammatory and often racist comments, for months leading up to the trial, the executives were unaware of them.
This revelation further incentivized Fox to avoid the trial in which Carlson would likely be questioned over the unredacted text messages he sent following the 2020 election included in Dominion’s filing, two sources with knowledge of the discussion told The Times.
Fox settled with the voting technology company for $787.5 million two days after its board learned of the texts.
Several sources with knowledge of their discussions also told the Times that these redacted messages were a catalyst in the network’s decision to part ways with its highest-rated, prime-time host, which it announced to the public on Monday.
One of the sources said that, much like the Dominion settlement, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch considered forcing Carlson out a “business decision.” By the time he and the other board members had seen the messages, Murdoch had already begun to seek a resolution with Dominion outside of court. The executives had also considered hiring an outside firm to investigate Carlson ahead of any harm he could cause beyond the Dominion case, two sources said.
Dominion lawyers had planned to ask the judge to allow the use of the redacted texts in the trial and prepared to pepper him with questions, aiming to pin him down with the messages that were most offensive to women.
Fox had no comment outside of its initial statement announcing Carlson’s departure and neither Carlson nor his lawyer, Bryan Freedman, responded to the Times request for comment.
Carlson, however, spoke to the public for the first time since his ousting in a video shared on social media on Wednesday night. Though the former anchor did not address his dismissal from the company, he criticized the “unbelievably stupid” and “completely irrelevant” debates on TV.
“Both political parties and their donors have reached consensus on what benefits them and they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it,” he said.
“When honest people say what’s true, calmly and without embarrassment, they become powerful. At the same time, the liars who have been trying to silence them shrink. They become weaker. That’s the iron law of the universe: true things prevail,” he added, claiming that the “people in charge” are afraid and resorting to force.
Despite his firing, Fox isn’t out of the weeds yet as the redacted texts could be used in their upcoming trial with Smartmatic, another voting technology company suing the network for $2.7 billion for implicating it in false claims of a “stolen” 2020 election Fox aired. Abby Grossberg, the former producer of Carlson’s prime time program, is also suing Fox for creating a misogynistic and hostile work environment, citing Carlson’s team’s degrading and sexist behaviors as one of the reasons.
The Times has also obtained video showcasing Carlson’s inappropriate conduct, including one in which the former host is shown off-camera wondering if “postmenopausal fans” will approve of his looks.
These situations are among the variety of reasons company executives have indicated were behind his firing, according to The Times, but learning of the redacted texts ultimately played a large role in Carlson’s removal.
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