NEW YORK — A week after Fox News fired star host Tucker Carlson — for reasons that remain unexplained — he has been the subject of a handful of embarrassing stories about some of his private messages and statements while at the network.
The latest was in The New York Times on Wednesday, reporting on a text message that had been redacted as part of a recent defamation case targeting the network. In it, Carlson declared that a group of Trump supporters beating a protester was “not how white men fight.”
The sentiment was not out of character for Carlson, who has promoted the view that whites are being “replaced” by people of color. But the Times suggested the timing was crucial, as members of Fox’s board found out about the message as part of documents uncovered in the defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, shortly before a trial was to begin last month.
The newspaper said the discovery “contributed to a chain of events” that led to Carlson being fired April 24, less than a week after Fox agreed to pay Dominion nearly $800 million to settle the case.
Three times in the past week, the anti-Fox watchdog Media Matters for America has released “hot mic” moments of Carlson speaking while on Fox sets, material that was never included on broadcasts.
In one, Carlson is seen speaking to someone offscreen disparaging Fox’s streaming service, Fox Nation. In another, he shares offscreen sexual banter with Piers Morgan before an interview, commenting to someone offscreen that a person’s girlfriend “was kind of yummy.” He is also heard saying how he waits for his “post-menopausal fans” to make comments about his appearance.
Angelo Carusone, Media Matters chairman and president, would not comment Wednesday on how Media Matters acquired the material.
“Part of me can’t escape the idea that this is to demonstrate that Tucker was a liability,” he said.
Fox declined comment Wednesday on how the material on Carlson had surfaced. Messages sent to Carlson and his attorney seeking comment were not immediately returned.
While some of Carlson’s texts have been publicly released as part of the lawsuit, the one quoted by the Times remains redacted by the court, as do numerous other exhibits. Media organizations, including The Associated Press, continue to try to lift the redactions.
The Times reported that Carlson sent the text to a producer hours after Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He describes a video he had seen a couple weeks earlier of Trump supporters beating someone he described as “an antifa kid.”
Carlson wrote about his conflicting emotions in watching the fight, which he described as “three against one, at least.”
“Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously,” he wrote, according to the Times. “It’s not how white men fight.”
“I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed,” Carlson wrote, after admitting part of him was rooting for the attackers. “If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?”
Before his ouster last month, Carlson was Fox’s top-rated host. He drew controversy for supporting theories such as the idea that immigrants are being admitted to the U.S to “replace” people born here. Critics have called that white supremacy, an accusation he has denied.
A lawyer for The Times, The AP and National Public Radio wrote this week to Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis, who presided over the Dominion case, reiterating that the news organizations want to see redacted documents from the case opened to the public.
There’s still a compelling interest, and the settlement does not make the request moot, the news organizations said.
In a separate matter, however, Davis indicated a lack of interest in examining one aspect of the case now that it’s over. Davis had appointed a special master to investigate accusations that Fox lawyers had not turned over required evidence to the court. But after the settlement, Davis ended that investigation.