Some six weeks after being taken off the air at Fox News, Tucker Carlson released the first installment of his new Twitter show on Tuesday. Simply titled “Episode 1,” Carlson delivered what was essentially a 10-minute monologue from his home studio. “As of today, we’ve come to Twitter, which we hope will be the shortwave radio under the blanket,” he said. “We’re told there are no gatekeepers here. If that turns out to be false, we’ll leave.”
Fox News wasted no time responding. Following the Tweet, the network’s general counsel, Bernard Gugar, sent a letter to Carlson’s attorneys saying the former Tucker Carlson Tonight host “is in breach” of his contract. This comes amidst continued ratings declines for the beleaguered cable news channel.
On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by Chadwick Moore, author of the forthcoming biography Tucker, to discuss Carlson’s new show and what we are now learning about the leaks against him.
Did Tucker Carlson Breach His Fox News Contract?
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that Carlson was not fired by Fox News. His shows were taken off the air, but he remains under contract with the network. “They continue to pay him because they want to keep him muzzled through at least 2025,” Megyn said.
Carlson would like out of said agreement, but, as Megyn has reported, Fox News is “slow rolling” the legal battle because of the threat he poses. “The longer he’s on the sidelines, the better for them,” she explained. “This is Tucker’s first real middle finger, I think, to them saying, ‘I’m doing it. I will not stay muzzled.’”
Whether or not Carlson breached his contract by releasing a video on Twitter is the million dollar question, and Fox News seems to be betting on the law being on its side. “I haven’t seen Tucker’s deal but reportedly there is a clause in it that prohibits him from rendering services of any type whatsoever,” Megyn explained. That allegedly includes internet, streaming, and digital distribution.
The issue Fox News might run into is that Carlson chose to take his show – at least for now – to Twitter. “Fox of course has allowed all of its personalities to post on Twitter since I was there, since Twitter was born,” Megyn noted. “So there will be a dispute about whether this qualifies as a ‘breach.’”
Moore said the sticking point for Fox News is the use of the term ‘rendering services.’ “I don’t know if he’s actually ‘rendering services’ if he’s not getting paid,” he said. “From what I was told initially, Twitter is not mentioned in his non-compete. Fox News employees are allowed to use Twitter to express their opinions on issues of the day and that would be apparently what Tucker did in this.”
While Carlson’s show is exclusive to Twitter, Moore pointed out that “he’s not an employee of Elon Musk or partnering with Elon Musk in any way.” So perhaps Fox News is simply looking for a way to keep its former primetime host quiet. “People have said that they’re committed to keeping him off the air until after the election – his contract runs out in early 2025,” he noted. “I’ve heard from a lot of Fox people… this is pretty standard behavior.”
Who Is Behind the Leaks About Tucker Carlson
Almost as soon as the announcement was made that Fox News and Carlson were parting ways, leaked videos and text messages began emerging that seemed to want to paint the host in a negative light. The New York Times and Media Matters received the behind-the-scenes content that many assumed was part of a coordinated leak campaign from the network.
New reporting is adding what Megyn called “a bizarre new twist” to “this whole leak saga.” According to The Tampa Bay Times, federal authorities are now investigating Timothy Burke, a journalist who has worked for Deadspin and The Daily Beast, for his role in the leaking. Federal prosecutors in Tampa reportedly alerted Fox News to the criminal probe in May, though they did not name the target. The Tampa Bay Times tied Burke to the probe and reports that FBI agents served a warrant at his home in Tampa. The investigation “concerns allegations of unauthorized computer access; interception of wire, oral, or electronic communication; conspiracy; and other federal crimes.”
Burke’s attorney, Mark Rasch, has not denied his client was responsible for the leaks. Instead, he denied anything illegal was done to obtain the content and toldThe Washington Post: “We are confident that when all the facts come out, it will be demonstrated that Timothy never hacked anyone and that all the information he provided was accessible to the public.”
Needless to say, Megyn had a lot of questions: “He found it? On the Internet? Unencrypted and unprotected? How? Did someone give it to him? How did he even know where to look? And did he then leak just two of those videos to The New York Times in April at the exact same moment someone was leaking confidential documents to the Times from the Dominion litigation?” All of this will presumably be part of the investigation, but, for now, “it looks like multiple people were out to hurt Tucker Carlson,” she added.
There also remains questions around if or how anyone at Fox News or Fox Corporation was involved in the leaks. “The Daily Caller reported in late May that the GC of Fox Corporation, Viet Dinh, actually reached out to a Tucker associate with a message for Tucker saying: (1) Irena Briganti [head of corporate communications] had been warned she would be fired if she were caught leaking, and (2) confessing that Fox suspected a Fox board member of speaking to the press as well,” Megyn noted. “Fox denies all of this, but all of this matters because if Fox was behind any of these leaks, I believe it would be a breach of contract – a prior material breach of the very deal they now say Tucker breached this week by dropping the first episode of his independently produced show on Twitter.”
What This Says About the State of Cable News
Regardless of how things play out between Carlson and Fox News, Moore believes this situation exposes the fragility of traditional media. “It seems like now we’re realizing that Tucker was sort of artificially… extending the life but relevance of cable news,” he said.
As Moore explained, Fox News had been alienating a certain portion of its viewers for years, but many of them tolerated it because of talent like Carlson. “Fox might be doing all sorts of things – they might have called Arizona too early, etc, etc, but they still let Tucker talk… so they must not be that bad,” he noted. “Now that they gave him the boot… MSNBC is beating them in Tucker’s old slot.”
Carlson is gone, and his audience seems to be, too. “I don’t think those viewers are coming back,” Moore said. “He was bringing people to cable news that wouldn’t normally be there, and now those people are gone. They were only there for him.”
Megyn agreed that the worry is real for Fox News. “I mean that this is how panicked they are about Tucker 2.0,” she concluded. “They cannot have him coming out and competing against them. That’s what this is all about… he’s got to remain muzzled.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Moore by tuning in to episode 568 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.