Following Tucker Carlson’s shock firing from Fox News early last week, reporting has suggested a broad variety of reasons—among them, as The Daily Beast’s Confider newsletter reported, his frequent use of the vulgar and misogynistic “c-word” to deride female colleagues.
Previously unreported text messages between Carlson and his “straight-news” colleague, chief political anchor Bret Baier, which were obtained and reviewed by The Daily Beast, further confirm Carlson’s repeated use of the slur.
The text messages are part of redacted court filings from Dominion Voting Systems’ now-settled defamation case against Fox News. A source familiar with the lawsuit confirmed their veracity. (Fox News on Wednesday argued in court that media outlets should not be able to unseal more redacted materials from the lawsuit, claiming their $787.5-million settlement was paid to “buy peace.”)
In a Nov. 20, 2020, chat, Baier told Carlson that the “Sydnee [sic] Powell thing is troubling,” referring to the Trump lawyer’s refusal to provide evidence for her on-air claims that Dominion’s voting machines rigged the election for Biden.
“See her answer to you on Maria this am. Ugggh,” Baier wrote before sharing a link to an article on Powell telling Maria Bartiromo on her Fox Business Network show that Carlson was “insulting, demanding, and rude” in his insistence that she provide proof.
“Does she attack me?” Carlson wondered, prompting Baier to reply: “Says you were rude and that’s why she didn’t respond. Ha.”
“Cunt. I mean it,” Carlson replied.
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That use of the sexist pejorative marks at least the second time the now-former Fox star deployed it in reference to Powell. As Confider previously reported, Carlson’s repeated use of the phrase, and the fact that Dominion lawyers grilled him on it during depositions, loomed large in his firing.
The first publicly known instance of him calling Powell the slur came in a Nov. 22 text, in which Carlson referred to her as “that cunt” and a “fucking bitch” to an unidentified Fox employee. Those texts were included in Dominion’s public court filings and figured into much of the reporting on the myriad reasons for Carlson’s ouster.
When confronted by Dominion lawyers during a deposition on how often he “referred to Sidney Powell as a cunt,” Carlson stammered in defense: “You know I-I-I can’t know and I just want to apologize preemptively,” he said. “I mean you’re trying to embarrass me, you’re definitely succeeding as I am embarrassed.” (In this exchange, Dominion lawyers were referring to his texts with Baier, according to Carlson’s unredacted deposition.)
As Confider’s Lachlan Cartwright reported last week: “Carlson being nailed in court documents for his repeated use of the overtly misogynist c-word was a key factor in his demise, as Fox News had rid itself of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly after years of sexual-harassment complaints and could not have its biggest star undermining any supposed progress.”
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In a separate exchange, currently redacted in official court documents, Carlson and Baier appear to strategize on how to delay Fox calling the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden—one day after the network’s CEO asked Carlson to let Fox’s Decision Desk handle the situation.
On Nov. 4, 2020, Carlson expressed to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott his worry that the network was “getting hammered” over its early and accurate call for Biden to win the Arizona vote, which led to a crisis within Fox as Trump fans abandoned the channel. “Please tell me if there’s anything I can do to help,” he wrote.
“We need to continue to be transparent about the call—let the data folks defend their decision,” Scott wrote back.
“Amen. I strongly agree. But if I can help in any way, I hope you’ll let me know,” Carlson concluded.
Even with that guidance from above, Carlson apparently reached out to Baier—the face of the network’s “news” operation—to strategize next steps. “FOX News stood by the Arizona call despite intense scrutiny,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Given the extremely narrow 0.3% margin and a new projection mechanism that no other network had, it’s hardly surprising there would be postmortem discussions surrounding the call and how it was executed, no matter the candidates.”
“I continue to think the company isn’t taking the [sic] seriously enough,” Carlson wrote to Baier the following day. “We need to do something to reassure our core audience. They’re our whole business model.”
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“Is there some way I could help?” he asked Baier. “Obviously I’d never do anything without full approval from the top.” The primetime star expressed concerns that any additional Fox on-air calls for Biden would irreparably damage Fox among its right-wing viewership. “Do we have a plan for this? We could lose our audience,” he wrote, citing a Semafor co-founder Ben Smith tweet outlining the pickle Fox had found itself in.
“We have been pushing for answers,” Baier responded. “I have pressed them to slow. And I think they will slow walk Nevada. The votes don’t come in until tomorrow.”
Carlson expressed his gratitude and offered to throw his weight around in order to slow-walk further election calls. “Please let me know if they don’t seem to be obeying,” he wrote. “We could really fuck up a lot of what we’ve built.”
“I totally agree,” Baier said, speculating that other outlets calling Georgia or Pennsylvania first would provide Fox cover to do the same. Baier referenced a previously reported email he sent to Scott and Fox News president Jay Wallace that morning urging the network to put Arizona back in Trump’s “column.”
Elsewhere in the exchange, Carlson floated the idea of interviewing Decision Desk director Arnon Mishkin—who made the decision to call Arizona for Biden on election night and faced intense backlash—on his own program. “But maybe you come on to walk us through it? Viewers trust you. Or maybe he interview Mishkin? I’m open. But again I want to help. Let me know,” Carlson wrote.
“Arnon would be good. For YOU to grill him,” Baier wrote. “But I have had him on a bunch. I am happy to do it. But may say I wouldn’t have made the call when we did. But we did.” (Carlson ultimately did not get the opportunity to grill Mishkin on his primetime show.)
After Baier groused that he was “taking major incoming,” Carlson responded that “the last thing I want to do is make it worse, or even get involved.” However, he implored Baier and others to “see if there’s any way I could help calm viewers down. When Trump loses, he’s going to blame us. That’s going to be very bad.”
Elsewhere, the pair discussed how they could be “destroyed” by the network’s Arizona call. “I’ve got four more years here,” Carlson noted. “I’m stuck with Fox. Got to do whatever I can to keep our numbers up and our viewers happy.” Baier replied: “Yes.”
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The texts between Carlson and Baier stand in contrast to the respective reputations they cultivated at the network—with the former as the network’s leading right-wing firebrand seemingly at odds with the “hard news” side anchored by the latter.
And though Baier is often viewed as a consummate newsman, his texts here suggest a commitment to preserving a highly partisan, fact-averse audience over responsible newsgathering. (Meanwhile, the same day as his texts with Carlson, Baier texted a colleague to complain about Bartiromo’s fact-free claim that ballots were being switched from Trump to Biden overnight. “We have to prevent this stuff. While cover the real issues,” he wrote. “We need to fact check.”)
And the seeming chumminess of their exchanges suggests a friendly relationship, even as Carlson later privately attacked the news side for “destroying” Fox with its election coverage, and suggested a key Fox News D.C. reporter should be fired.
Months later, of course, Baier’s public view of Carlson’s conspiratorial on-air rhetoric would become clear: The Special Report anchor aired multiple segments contradicting Carlson’s whitewashing of the Jan. 6 insurrection and, as NPR revealed, he expressed “concerns” directly to network brass about the primetime star’s docu-series loaded with false claims aimed at absolving participants in the MAGA mob violence.
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