With his shrill nightly screeds, Tucker Carlson fashioned himself as the extreme-right’s poster boy. Fox insiders knew he was a liar… now everyone knows.
A defamation lawsuit filed by a voting machine company against Fox, uncovered a trove of insider Fox News emails and texts that confirmed Tucker’s on-air persona is a fraud. And, he’s not alone.
The most vitriolic and sycophantic Donald Trump supporters — Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiromo,– along with other Fox News talking heads were brutally exposed for their patently false 2020 election coverage.
“This smoking gun evidence, it doesn’t get better than this,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Newsweek.
The Dominion revelations are devastating. It’s clear the right-wing talk channel engineered its coverage to appeal to its audience which was actively being lied to by Trump and his campaign surrogates, one report noted.
“The text messages and emails that are being widely quoted – they are absolute nightmare fuel for a media defense lawyer. I shouldn’t have read this brief right before bed,” lawyer Jeff Kossoff wrote in a Twitter thread on the case.
Given the weight of the evidence, Fox will almost certainly seek to settle the case out of court and prevent it from going to trial at all costs.
If that’s case, Dominion will undoubtedly demand the resignations of Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, Bartiromo and other talking heads who aided and abetted Trump’s false narrative. Lou Dobbs has already been sacked.
Ironically, the on-air talent and producers all testified in depositions that their shows were marketed as “a credible news source” based on facts that viewers could rely on to be accurate.
But their credibility, always suspect before, is clearly shattered now.
Carlson bears a singular culpability. He was one of the first of the on-air talent to realize the fraud, but encouraged network execs to stifle the truth. Nothing he says on air now can be trusted.
Indeed, Fox may be forced to revamp its entire line-up and the character of its broadcast. To keep them on would be a lingering reminder of one of the sorriest chapters in the history of news reporting.
The rot at Fox News begins at the top. Rupert Murdoch is the 92-year-old owner of News Corp, a media empire that owns hundreds of conservative local, national, and international media outlets including Fox News, The New York Post and the once-prestigious Wall Street Journal.
During the election, Murdoch urged his minions to do everything in their power to support Trump and Republicans, according to the emails and texts.
Lawyers for Dominion uncovered the missives as part of the discovery process and released them last week. They show a clear pattern; Fox deliberately misled its viewers about Trump’s false election claims for the most pecunious reasons — profits.
In a two-week period after President Biden’s election, Fox talking heads repeatedly pushed lies and conspiracy theories about the election results in an estimated 800 commentaries and broadcasts, according to MediaMatters, an online media watchdog.
Dominion was accused of using its machines to flip thousands of votes from Trump to Biden. Fox repeatedly aired Trump campaign lies about Dominion’s machines in the face of copious evidence to the contrary.
In a key legal victory last June, a judge added Fox Corporation as a defendant based on evidence showing Murdoch and son Lachlan Murdoch played “a direct role in participating in, approving and controlling” statements that fed false perceptions of voter fraud.
Dominion filed the lawsuit in March 2021 in Delaware seeking at least $1.6 billion in damages. The suit had been quietly wending its way through proceedings until the released of the explosive evidence last week.
The emails were part of a Dominion motion calling for summary judgment in the case. Such motions argue that the evidence is so overwhelming, or so lacking, a trial is unnecessary.
As it turns out, the motion is a roadmap of stunning deceit for the most base reasons — to protect Fox’s ratings and profits.
“Overwhelming direct evidence establishes Fox’s knowledge of falsity, not just ‘doubts,’ about Trump’s election claims,” according to court papers.
It was Carlson himself who described the enormity of the fraud. [It] “would amount to the single greatest crime in American history. Millions of votes stolen in a day. Democracy destroyed. The end of our centuries’ old system of self government,” he said.
What makes the case against Fox particularly damning is the fact that Dominion communicated more than 3,600 times with the network, pointing out the falsity of their reports, with substantial, documented evidence.
“Fox’s research department — along with multiple Fox employees—debunked [Trump’s] claims in real time. No credible evidence ever existed for these ‘absurd’ allegations against Dominion,” the motion states.
Yet, the network continued broadcasting the conspiracy theories as if they had substance. In fact, lawyer Sidney Powell, one of the architects of the Trump misinformation campaign, never presented any evidenced to the network, according to court papers.
Carlson’s behavior is particularly egregious because his statements show actual malice.
In law, actual malice requires a showing that those responsible for the publication or dissemination of falsehoods either knew or “recklessly disregarded” the truth.
Carlson acknowledged the enormity of the fraud in an Nov. 21 broadcast in which he challenged Powell.
“You keep telling our viewers that millions of votes were changed by the software. I hope you will prove that very soon. You’ve convinced them that Trump will win. If you don’t have conclusive evidence of fraud at that scale, it’s a cruel and reckless thing to keep saying,” he cautioned her.
Powell was a repeat guest on several Fox shows, even though executives were fully aware of some of her more off-the-wall claims.
Powell said, for example, her source claimed to get “information from experiencing something ‘like time-travel in a semi-conscious state,’ allowing her to ‘see what others don’t see, and hear what others don’t hear,’ and she received messages from ‘the wind.’”
“Broadcasters make choices about what to air. While that platform comes with tremendous power, it also carries an obligation to tell the truth. Fox, “one of the most influential news properties in history,” decided to use its megaphone to spread falsehoods. It deceived millions of people,” the motion asserts.
“Fox knew the truth. It knew the allegations against Dominion were ‘outlandish’ and ‘crazy’ and ‘ludicrous’ and ‘nuts,’ the motion states, quoting the network’s own talking heads and other executives.
“Dominion became the connective thread in a prefabricated election fraud story that needed a villain. Fox, the highest-rated cable news channel in America, chose to legitimize, endorse, and broadcast these false claims into millions of American homes.”
The flashpoint inside Fox came on election day when the network’s election desk became the first outlet to [accurately] call Arizona for Biden. That produced an immediate backlash from the Trump administration and angry viewers.
Despite the veracity of the call, Carlson wrote his producer Alex Pfeiffer the next day: “We worked really hard to build what we have. Those fuckers are destroying our credibility. It enrages me.”
Carlson noted that both Hannity and Ingraham were also livid.
Then, Carlson added this ominous comment: ““What [Trump]’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
Oddly, during this time credible efforts were being made inside Fox to raise red flags, call out fallacy of Trump’s allegations and temper some of the commentary by Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham and others.
But then, Murdoch delivered a stern reality check– ratings were crashing. “Getting creamed by CNN!” he wrote in an email to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott.
Once again, Carlson stepped up with an ominous warning.
“Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience? We’re playing with fire, for real….an alternative like newsmax (sic) could be devastating to us.” he texted to his producer.
Suddenly, Fox News executives were in a panic. It became “all about the brand.” With Newsmax nipping at their heels, Fox went on a “war footing.” The first casualty was the truth.
Hannity and Carlson groused to each other about the “incalcuable” damage caused by the wholey accurate call of the Arizona election.
“It’s vandalism,” Carlson said about the competition.
Nonetheless, internal dissent was still evident. “This dominion shit is going to give me a fucking aneurysm,” Tommy Firth texted Ron Mitchell, one of the Fox executives responsible for Ingraham’s show.
SVP of Programming Gary Schreier wrestled with the widespread belief internally that the claims were patently false with Fox talking heads who were pushing the narrative.
He was continually receiving reports that Dobbs and Bartiromo were airing unsubstantiated election claims both on-air and on social media.
He was constantly in touch with Lauren Petterson. President of Fox Business News, raising concerns about the two business news commentators, but nothing was done.
Schreier flagged a Bartiromo tweet espousing conspiracy theories for Petterson, and Petterson suggested Bartiromo should “get off social [media] all together.”
Schrier echoed the sentiment that Bartiromo was “say[ing] crazy shit” online and warned Peterson Bartiromo “has gop conspiracy theorists in her ear.”
“Yet Petterson did nothing to prevent Bartiromo from broadcasting the same “crazy shit” to Fox’s viewers—and indeed allowed it to be rebroadcast,” the court paper asserts.
Despite apprehension about the claims, Dobbs, an ardent MAGA conservative, continued to run interference for Trump. On Nov. 12, he invited Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on his show.
“This looks to me like it is the end of what has been a four-and-a-half—the endgame to a four-and-a-half year-long effort to overthrow the president of the United States,” Dobbs asserted.
Even after Dobbs was informed — and agreed — Powell’s election lawsuit was “bs,” he continued to have her on his show.
Jeanine Pirro was pushing the false narrative so intently, producers actually pulled the plug her Nov. 7 show to stop because her coverage was “irresponsible.”
Yet, a week later, Nov. 14, Pirro hosted Powell again, where she repeated some of her most outlandish acusations, inlcuding that Dominion had ties to Venezuela and dictator Hugo Chavez.
Pirro did not push back on Powell or confront her with the sources provided by Dominion, the motion states.
Hannity and Carlson moved to the forefront among on-air personalities attempting to promote Trump’s false claims.
When Fox “fact” reporter Jacqui Heinrich “fact checked” a Trump claim aired on both Hannity’s and Carlson’s show and found it unsubstantiated. the two talking heads went ballistic.
In a stunning text message, Carlson demanded Heinrich’s termination.
“Please get her fired. Seriously….What the fuck? I’m actually shocked…It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke,” he wrote.
The text among others has been cited as evidence Fox had recklessly disgarded the truth to prop up the company’s stock price. The finding is a key factor in determining defamation.
Hannity complained to CEO Scott and she intern groused to two other Fox executives. “She [Heinrich] has serious nerve doing this and if this gets picked up, viewers are going to be further disgusted.”
The following morning, Heinrich deleted her Tweet about the fact check.
Meanwhile, Murdoch was urging Scott to help Trump in Georgia, where he was contesting election results, “any way we can.”
Murdoch made clear he didn’t “want to antagonize Trump further” and stressed to her, “everything at stake here.”
As the election controversy continued to roil, Carlson, Ingraham and others realized Trump’s lawyer was fabricating her claims.
“Sidney Powell is lying. Fucking bitch,” he told producer Pfeiffer.
The following day, he said the same to Ingraham. “Sidney is a complete nut,” she responded.
On November 18, the word came down from SVP of Primetime Programming and Analytics Ron Mitchell. The conspiratorial reporting on Newsmax, he said, “might be exactly what the disgruntled FNC viewer is looking for.”
Om Nov. 30, Hannity hosted Powell on his show where she repeated “the same fraud and algorithm lies about Dominion that she had told over and over on Fox that month.
Oddly, before the election, Mitchell, who exercised editorial oversight of Carlson, Hannity and Ingraham, was highly skeptical of election fraud claims.
He thought Fox “might make a bad situation worse by feeding into conspiracy theories to explain a loss by President Trump.”
in private texts with Fox colleagues, Mitchell referred to the Dominion allegations as “the Bill Gates/microchip angle to voter fraud,” agreed they were “bs,” called Powell and Giuliani “clowns,” and repeatedly mocked their Dominion allegations, including sarcastically saying they “left out Ernst Stavro Blofeld,” a fictional James Bond villain, and calling it “comic book stuff,” according to court papers.
If there was any doubt about the direction Fox was heading, however, it was erased Nov. 19. Fox covered in its intirety a news conference featuring Giuliani and Powell attacking Dominion and regurgitating the same stolen election claims.
Then-White House correspondent Kristen Fisher fact-checked the claims and found them unsubstantiated, causing an upoar at Fox’s New York City headquartrers.
Fisher’s boss Bryan Boughton called her on the carpet. emphasizing that Fox higher-ups were unhappy with her. He told her she needed to do a better job “respecting our audience.”
Scott separately noted: “The audience feels like we crapped on [them] and we have damaged their trust and belief in us….We can fix this but we cannot smirk at our viewers any longer.”
Despite all the red flags, Dobbs, Hannity and hosted Powell again and she repeated all of her claims about Dominion.
If there was a war on, it was partly being waged inside Fox itself. Bill Sammon, SVP and Managing Editor of the Fox Washington Bureau commented prophetically: “It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things.”
Fox executives had clear doubts about the credibility and objectivity of its own hosts.
About Bartiromo, Schreier said: “The problem is she has gop conspiracy theorists in her ear, and they use her for their message sometimes.”
On Dobbs, Fox President Jay Wallace said “the North Koreans do a more nuanced show” than Dobbs.
Jerry Andrews said “Jeanine is just as nuts.”
When it came to Carlson and Hannity, Brian Farley called the former “crazy” and the latter “even craizer.”
Carlson clearly had a choice to make. He could either continue reporting Powell’s claims or he could come clean with his own conclusions about her conspiracies. He tried to have it both ways instead.
He said “she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of requests” but conditioned that by saying “maybe Sidney Powell will come forward soon with details on exactly how this happened, and precisely who did it.…We are certainly hopeful that she will.”
Conservative commenters trashed Carlson the next day on social media.
After January 6, Carlson continued to try to “thread the needle” between the truth and pressure from his viewers and sponsors, but privately his throughts were clear. He texted Pfeiffer, calling Trump “a demonic force, a destroyer.
Then, he turned around two weeks later and hosted My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell on his show, who repeated the same conspiracies about the election. Carlson never rebutted him. Lindell is Fox’s biggest advertiser and a Trump sycophant.
At one point, CEO Scott opined: “The audience feels like we crapped on [them] and we have damaged their trust and belief in us….We can fix this but we cannot smirk at our viewers any longer.”
“Fox did not merely report on the claims made about the 2020 Presidential Election; it actively participated in shaping them,” the court motion asserts.
On Nov. 22, Trump finally disavowed Powell. Behind the scenes Carlson took credit for pushing Powell out.
Powell’s “a nut, as you said at the outset. It totally wrecked my weekend. Wow… I had to try to make the WH disavow her, which they obviously should have done long before,” he wrote to Ingraham.
Ingraham responds: “No serious lawyer could believe what they were saying.”
Carlson: “But they said nothing in public. Pretty disgusting.”
In depositions, which involves taking sworn pre-trial testimony, “not a single Fox witness testified that they believe any of the allegations… Indeed, Fox witness after Fox witness declined to assert the allegations’ truth or actually stated they do not believe them.” the motion states.