According to a report by Mike Allen at Axios, FOX News has sent a cease-and-desist to Tucker Carlson related to his two “Tucker on Twitter” programs. Carlson and FOX parted ways in the aftermath of the Dominion Voting Systems settlement but Carlson remains under contract to FOX (through the end of 2024) and is still being paid by FOX. This is a fairly standard non-compete situation found in most television and radio contracts. Carlson and his attorney, Harmeet Dhillon, argue that FOX is attempting to stifle Carlson’s First Amendment rights. This case appears to be headed to court. Read the Axios story here.
According to a report by Axios, FOX News has notified Tucker Carlson’s attorneys that they believe his Tuesday Twitter broadcast is in violation of his contract. The Tuesday program was Carlson’s first broadcast since he exited FOX News Channel in April. FOX argues that the show was a violation of the non-compete portion of his contract. Axios reports that Carlson’s lawyers say, “Any legal action by FOX would violate [Carlson’s] First Amendment rights.” The Axios piece goes on to say that Carlson is accusing FOX News of breach of contract for breaking their promise to not settle the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit in a manner in which it would indicate wrongdoing on the part of Carlson. It’s been reported that firing Carlson was a part of FOX’s settlement agreement with Dominion. Read the Axios report here.
The news/talk media industry spent Monday afternoon digesting the one-two punch that FOX News and Tucker Carlson had parted ways and that CNN had fired longtime anchor and host Don Lemon. While conservatives were likely to cheer the news of Lemon’s dismissal, the Carlson departure was far more nuanced as it came a week after FOX agreed to a $787 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems and after discovery in the case revealed texts that offered a behind-the-scenes look at FOX News personalities’ frank opinions about the 2020 election, January 6, and their co-workers and bosses. The breaking news even prompted the vacationing Mike Gallagher to find a studio in London from which to do a special edition of his Salem Radio Network program today (4/25). Salem VP/news & talk programming Tom Tradup says, “Mike Gallagher’s programming instincts are second to none. Despite being on vacation overseas, he recognized the importance of the Tucker Carlson departure and insisted on parachuting back into his talk show to give listeners the chance to sound off of what likely will be one of the biggest political stories on 2023.”
This week’s settlement between Dominion Voting Systems and FOX News puts one chapter of post-2020 election litigation to bed, but Dominion (as well as competitor Smartmatic) has other defamation suits pending, including one against Newsmax. The news organization itself reports on the pending case and, in a piece by Marisa Herman, lays out the argument that there are stark differences between the FOX News case and its own. She cites a February 2, 2021 appearance by Mike Lindell on Newsmax TV during which anchor Bob Sellers vehemently challenges Lindell’s allegations of voter manipulation, to the point of walking off the set in frustration. The story also notes Newsmax’s defense as laid out in court filings. The company says, “It reported fairly and accurately on the public statements made by President Trump, his attorneys, and surrogates; It had a right to report on statements made by public figures, including the president; Newsmax reported on both television and online claims by multiple officials and experts that the election was not ‘stolen’ or ‘rigged.’; Newsmax reached out to Dominion, and Dominion did not accept offers to appear on the network; Newsmax published online at least a dozen articles sharing Dominion’s response to Trump campaign claims. Those headlines appeared on Newsmax TV; On Dec. 19, 2020, Newsmax published to its website a statement, ‘Facts About Dominion, Smartmatic You Should Know,’ which read, in part, ‘No evidence has been offered that Dominion or Smartmatic used software or reprogrammed software that manipulated votes in the 2020 election.’; Newsmax shared its statement over the course of months during segments related and unrelated to the 2020 election.” Finally, Newsmax adds, “It should be noted that FOX News has never made a statement, even after its settlement, as strong and specific as Newsmax’s statement of Dec. 19, 2021.”
The settlement of the defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against FOX News was the most-talked-about story in news/talk media this week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was the Supreme Court’s hearing of arguments in the mifepristone abortion drug lower court ruling, followed by the various legal battles facing former President Donald Trump at #3. The Talkers TenTM is a weekly chart of the top stories and people discussed in news/talk media this week and is the result of ongoing research from TALKERS magazine. It is published every Friday at Talkers.com. See this week’s complete chart here.
By Holland Cooke
In Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion lawsuit, testimony and internal communications demonstrate that FOX News management and talent privately doubted election fraud claims they were broadcasting. Tucker Carlson messaged Laura Ingraham: “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane.”
Several FOX News Radio affiliates have asked what impact these disclosures have on station credibility.
My advice: Your affiliation remains a franchise.
— 21% percent of FOX News viewers do say they trust the network less following the release of evidence in the Dominion case, per Maru Group poll commissioned by Variety. This is notable because FOX is not reporting the story, citing that it is the defendant; and because few minds change, generally, in divided America. We choose to believe what we choose to believe, and FOX simply got caught pandering.
— Trump loyalists are especially dug-in. His legal problems galvanize supporters’ view that he’s persecuted. At CPAC he proclaimed, “I am your retribution.”
— Affiliates: The FOX brand is your asset. To my ear, FOX Radio on-hour/half-hour newscasts report the same facts as ABC or CBS Radio newscasts. I haven’t tested this, but I’d bet a Martini at the Palm that reading transcripts – side-by-side with ABC or CBS Radio copy – the target demo’ couldn’t tell which-is-whose. But listener complaints – rooted in distrust that ABC and CBS are the proverbial “Mainstream Media” – caused several of my client stations to switch to FOX. Reaction was positive.
— Think car radio and assure listeners that they can “get a quick FOX News update” on-hour/half-hour “throughout your busy day.” “Because news that matters to you is changing fast,” listeners will want to “stay close to the news.”
— Bottom line: Unless the financial consequence of these legal actions drives FOX News out of business, hang in there.
Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download; and the E-book and FREE on-air radio features “Inflation Hacks: Save Those Benjamins;” and “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books. Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke
Former President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC; the race for the GOP nomination in ’24; U.S.-China relations and warnings from the West that China should not assist Russia in its invasion of Ukraine; President Joe Biden visits Selma, Alabama and promotes voting rights legislation; a second Norfolk Southern train derailment happens this time in Springfield, Ohio; Russia’s battle to take control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut; the U.S. Energy Department’s conclusion that COVID-19 was the result of a Chinese lab leak; the testimony from FOX News executives and personalities in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit; and Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington dies were some of the most-talked-about stories in news/talk media over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.