May 9, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Tucker Carlson accuses Fox of fraud, contract breach

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Tucker Carlson, two weeks after being ousted by Fox News, accused the network Tuesday of fraud and breach of contract — and made a host of document demands that could precede legal action.

Why it matters: The aggressive letter from his lawyers to Fox positions Carlson to argue that the noncompete provision in his contract is no longer valid — freeing him to launch his own competing show or media enterprise.

  • On Tuesday, Carlson announced he would be bringing his show to Twitter.
  • "Starting soon we'll be bringing a new version of the show we've been doing for the last six and a half years to Twitter," he said in the video. "We bring some other things too, which we'll tell you about. But for now we're just grateful to be here. Free speech is the main right that you have. Without it, you have no others."

The intrigue: The Twitter move would seem to technically violate Carlson's contract with Fox, but his lawyers' letter effectively holds that Fox breached the contract first.

  • Sources told Axios that Carlson's lawyers sent their letter before he took to Twitter to announce his new show.

Catch up quick: Axios reported Sunday that Carlson, frustrated by being held to his contract, is preparing to unleash allies to pressure the network into letting him work for — or start — a right-wing rival.

  • Carlson's contract runs until January 2025 and Fox wants to keep paying him, which would prevent him from starting a competing show.
  • Carlson already has gotten eye-popping offers from several right-wing outlets, and has talked to Elon Musk about working together.

The details: The letter — from Carlson lawyer Bryan Freedman to Fox officials Viet Dinh and Irena Briganti — said Fox employees, including "Rupert Murdoch himself," broke promises to Carlson "intentionally and with reckless disregard for the truth."

  • The lawyers accuse Fox executives — which two sources say are Dinh and Murdoch — of making “material representations,” or promises, to Carlson that were intentionally broken, constituting fraud.
  • Notably, the letter alleges Fox broke an agreement with Carlson not to leak his private communications to the media and not to use Carlson's private messages "to take any adverse employment action against him."
  • Multiple outlets have reported on Carlson's redacted communications from pre-trial discovery documents and have suggested that they led to his ousting.

The letter also alleges Fox broke promises not to settle with Dominion Voting Systems "in a way which would indicate wrongdoing" on the part of Carlson and not to take any actions in a settlement that would harm Carlson's reputation.

  • Carlson was told by a member of the Fox board that he was taken off the air as part of the Dominion settlement, two sources briefed on the conversation told Axios.
  • According to a source familiar with Carlson's position, his lawyers believe that the misrepresentations alleged by Carlson amount to a breach of contract because they created additional terms of Carlson's employment that were then broken by the company.
  • "These actions not only breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the Agreement, but give rise to claims for breach of contract, and intentional and negligent misrepresentation," the letter says.

A Fox News spokesperson said it is "categorically false" that Carlson lost his job as part of the network's $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems.

  • Stephen Shackelford, an outside attorney for Dominion, told Axios' Dan Primack: "Dominion did not insist on them firing Tucker Carlson as part of the settlement."

What's next: Carlson is also claiming that Briganti, Fox's longtime communications and PR chief, attempted to "undermine, embarrass, and interfere" with Carlson's future business prospects, which he maintains would constitute another breach of his employment contract.

  • "Make no mistake, we intend to subpoena Ms. Briganti’s cell phone records and related documents, which evidence communications with her and all media, including, but not limited to The New York Times," the letter said.

What to watch: Carlson's lawyers added that because Carlson is considering litigation against the network to resolve these disputes, Fox News must take immediate steps "to preserve all existing documents and data" relevant to Fox’s relationship with Carlson, including correspondence between top executives and several media outlets.

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