It reads like a Fox News lead story on the old Tucker Carlson segment, complete with a breathless recounting of how “Democrats are trying to interfere with our First Amendment rights.” Only this time it’s not some spurious, evidence-light accounting of how a pre-Elon Musk Twitter corporation has banned accounts allegedly at the Biden administration’s behest. It’s a real letter from real Fox News lawyers demanding that “Media Matters for America” stop drip-feeding embarrassing, behind-the-scenes videos of Tucker Carlson.
Thus far the leaked clips have, among other things, shown Carlson asking British broadcaster Piers Morgan about sexual techniques, trashing Fox’s own streaming service and making creepy, inappropriate comments about Tucker’s own “premenopausal” fans.
The demand letter reads in part: “The unaired footage is FOX’s confidential intellectual property. FOX did not consent to its distribution or publication; and FOX does not consent to its further distribution or publication. This proprietary material was given to you without FOX’s authorization. FOX demands that Media Matters cease and desist from distribution, publication, and misuse of Fox’s misappropriated proprietary footage, which you are now on notice was unlawfully obtained.”
It’s a weak letter, a desperate, Hail Mary threat from Fox News. Fox News clearly hoped that Media Matters would buckle to the threat and become terrified that they would be hauled into court for exercising their First Amendment rights to report leaked material. But the letter contains no actual threat of legal action. It was written by lawyers who know perfectly well they haven’t a leg to stand on, legally speaking.
So, instead of buckling to the demand, faster than you can say “Hunter Biden’s laptop” Media Matters instead publicly released the letter as a scathing repudiation of this absurd attempt to deprive them of their right to free speech. “Reporting on newsworthy leaked material is a cornerstone of journalism,” Media Matters CEO Angelo Carusone said. “For Fox to argue otherwise is absurd and further dispels any pretence that they’re a news operation.”
All of which goes to show that the leaks are apparently not coming from Fox. At least, not officially. In other words, these leaks are not part of Fox’s Machiavellian attempt to punish Tucker Carlson or discourage him from publishing his own scandals about the embattled company. The leaks are damaging to both Fox News and Tucker Carlson alike.
Unfortunately for Fox News, they don’t get to guard the henhouse of free speech. Instead they get to learn firsthand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a major scandal. Only this time the scandal in question isn’t composed of spurious conspiracy theories cobbled together to destroy the reputations of innocent people. This one is the Real McCoy.
To borrow a phrase from Donald Trump, this could mean the end of “the failing Fox News.” I hope so. It couldn’t happen to a bunch of more deserving people. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.