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Tucker Carlson’s unreleased texts were so bad Fox News didn’t think it was “survivable”: reporter

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The messages were reportedly far worse than any other public or reported comments the host has made previously

Published April 28, 2023 11:03AM (EDT)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson leaves the stage after talking about ‘Populism and the Right’ during the National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson’s redacted text messages were far worse than any public comments he’s made previously and ultimately led to his termination, New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt told MSNBC on Thursday.

Schmidt was one of the Times journalists who reported that Carlson was fired after Fox executives learned of damning texts discovered in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit that were not publicly released.

The Times reported that even though Fox attorneys had access to the new messages for months, its board of directors and executives didn’t learn of their existence until the day before the defamation trial against the network was scheduled to start. A trove of other incendiary messages from the former host to other Fox executives contained in Dominion’s court filing were already made public in February.

“I can only describe the way that people, you know, reacted,” Schmidt told MSNBC. “When they saw it — and what they saw, they didn’t think it was survivable for the network to have known about it and to allow him to stay on the air. I realize that is not a satisfying answer to many people.”

Schmidt told host Nicolle Wallace that the Times and several other media companies had challenged the redactions in court in an ongoing effort to get the texts and remaining court documents to be made public and “bring to light” their contents.   

“It is a very fair question. It’s like, well, what is the straw that breaks the camel’s back? What is the point at which in the modern-day conservative media landscape, Trumpworld, whatever — what is the breaking point for people and for institutions?” Schmidt said of the desire to know what Carlson wrote in the messages. “What was it that really put this over the edge?” he wondered.

Carlson, who was ousted from the network Monday, spoke publicly for the first time since his firing on Wednesday, criticizing the “unbelievably stupid” and “completely irrelevant” debates on TV in a video he shared on Twitter. He did not address his removal from Fox.

Despite dismissing him from the network, Fox is reportedly trying to keep Carlson under a contract that is set to expire after the 2024 election, according to conservative outlet Breitbart.

“Carlson’s current contract runs through December 2024, and as of now three sources familiar with the matter told Breitbart News that executives at the network are trying to keep Carlson on contract and not release him until after the 2024 election,” the article says. “The shocking decision to cancel Carlson’s top-rated weeknight program came just days after the network shut down its top-rated weekend program with host Dan Bongino.”

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Fox is reportedly still recovering from its nearly $800 million settlement with Dominion and has been in complete “disarray” following all its losses, according to the report.

Though Breitbart claims that Fox’s account of the ousting is untrue, citing several anonymous sources, it notes that disparagement clauses will likely prevent Carlson and other former Fox anchors from speaking out against the network. The report says none of the sources agreed to speak on the record, in part, “because Fox News and the broader Murdoch empire are known for their ruthlessness against anyone who speaks the truth about what is actually happening there.”

“As of right now, the plan remains the same: pay out Carlson’s contract and keep him on the sidelines through the 2024 elections,” one of the sources close to Fox News senior executives told the outlet. “They knew they would take a beating for this but everyone — and I mean everyone — is pretty rattled. They weren’t expecting the blowback to be this bad. Hate to say it but it’s clear that Rupert has lost a step or two.”

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

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