Posted on May 3, 2023

Carlson’s Text That Alarmed Fox Leaders: ‘It’s Not How White Men Fight’

Jeremy W. Peters et al., New York Times, May 2, 2023

A text message sent by Tucker Carlson that set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox on the eve of its billion-dollar defamation trial showed its most popular host sharing his private, inflammatory views about violence and race.

The discovery of the message contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Mr. Carlson’s firing.

In the message, sent to one of his producers in the hours after violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Carlson described how he had recently watched a video of a group of men — Trump supporters, he said — violently attacking “an Antifa kid.”

It was “three against one, at least,” he wrote.

And then he expressed a sense of dismay that the attackers, like him, were white.

“Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously,” he wrote.

“It’s not how white men fight,” he said. But he said he found himself for a moment wanting the group to kill the person he had described as the Antifa kid.

For years, Mr. Carlson espoused views on his show that amplified the ideology of white nationalism. But the text message revealed more about his views on racial superiority.

The text alarmed the Fox board, which saw the message a day before Fox was set to defend itself against Dominion Voting Systems before a jury. The board grew concerned that the message could become public at trial when Mr. Carlson was on the stand, creating a sensational and damaging moment that would raise broader questions about the company.

The day after the discovery, the board told Fox executives it was bringing in an outside law firm to conduct an investigation into Mr. Carlson’s conduct.

The text message added to a growing number of internal issues involving Mr. Carlson that led the company’s leadership to conclude he was more of a problem than an asset and had to go, according to several people with knowledge of the decision. In other messages he had referred to women — including a senior Fox executive — in crude and misogynistic terms. The message about the fight also played a role in the company’s decision to settle with Dominion for $787.5 million, the highest known payout in a defamation case.


The text is part of redacted court filings and its contents were previously unreported. The contents of the text were disclosed in interviews with several people close to the defamation lawsuit against Fox. {snip}

Mr. Carlson’s messages were collected as part of the defamation lawsuit filed against Fox by Dominion, which accused the network of knowingly airing falsehoods about election fraud. Many of the messages shared in the case, including those among Fox executives and hosts, were released publicly. But others, like the one between Mr. Carlson and one of his producers in the hours after Jan. 6, 2021, remain redacted.

In that text, Mr. Carlson described his own emotions as he watched the video of the violent clash, which he said took place on the streets of Washington. Mr. Carlson did not describe the race of the man being attacked.

“I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it,” he wrote. “Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be.”

After all, he wrote, “Somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed.”

“If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?” he wrote.