Jun 7, 2023 - Economy

Scoop: Fox News says Tucker Carlson breached his contract

Tucker Carlson speaks on November 17, 2022 in Hollywood, Florida. Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Fox News Wednesday notified Tucker Carlson's lawyers that the former prime-time anchor violated his contract with the network when he launched his own Twitter show on Tuesday, according to a copy of a letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: A breach of contract claim sets Fox News up to explore potential legal action against Carlson, a move that would intensify the already thorny public battle between the two parties.

Carlson’s lawyers told Axios that any legal action by Fox would violate his First Amendment rights.

  • “Fox defends its very existence on freedom of speech grounds. Now they want to take Tucker Carlson’s right to speak freely away from him because he took to social media to share his thoughts on current events," said Carlson's lawyer, Bryan Freedman, in a statement to Axios.

Catch up quick: Carlson was ousted from Fox News in April following a record $787 million defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, which sued the network for making false claims about the company.

  • Carlson, Axios reported, has since accused Fox of fraud and has argued that Fox breached his contract when its senior executives reneged on promises made to Carlson "intentionally and with reckless disregard for the truth."
  • Carlson's lawyers also argued Fox broke its promise to Carlson not to settle with Dominion Voting Systems "in a way which would indicate wrongdoing" on the part of the former host.
  • Axios previously reported that 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.

Details: Shortly after Carlson posted the first episode of his new show on Twitter Tuesday evening, Fox News general counsel Bernard Gugar sent a letter to Carlson’s lawyers saying Carlson "is in breach" of his contract agreement.

  • "In connection with such breach and pursuant to the Agreement, Fox expressly reserves all rights and remedies which are available to it at law or equity.”

The letter refers to Carlson's contract, which was originally signed on November 8, 2019 and amended on February 16, 2021.

  • "This evening we were made aware of Mr. Tucker Carlson’s appearance on Twitter in a video that lasted over 10 minutes," the letter read.
  • "Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, Mr. Carlson’s 'services shall be completely exclusive to Fox,'" it continues, quoting Carlson's contract.
  • It adds that Carlson's contract says he is "prohibited from rendering services of any type whatsoever, whether 'over the internet via streaming or similar distribution, or other digital distribution whether now known or hereafter devised.'"

Between the lines: Carlson's legal team, according to a source familiar with its thinking, objects to the network's effort to block Carlson's Twitter appearances because, they believe, Twitter is not directly competitive with Fox News.

  • A source told Axios that Fox believes it has been working in good faith to reach an amicable agreement.

The big picture: Carlson has been leveraging allies, such as former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, to put pressure on the network to let him out of his contract.

  • A source told Axios that Carlson was told by a senior Fox executive that the network's goal is to keep him sidelined until 2025.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that Fox's settlement with Dominion was for $787 million, not $757 million.

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