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Fox News sends Tucker Carlson cease-and-desist letter over new Twitter show

The firebrand right-wing anchor debuted a show on Twitter last week. His former network considers it a violation of his contract.
Tucker Carlson attends the final round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., on July 31, 2022.
Tucker Carlson at the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., in Juky.Seth Wenig / AP file

Fox News has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Tucker Carlson, alleging that the conservative network’s former star anchor breached his contract by launching a new show on Twitter, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Carlson, a firebrand right-wing media personality known for spreading conspiracy theories, parted ways with Fox News in late April, days after the network agreed to pay almost $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems to avert a high-stakes defamation trial.

“Fox News continues to ignore the interests of its viewers, not to mention its shareholder obligations,” Harmeet Dhillon, one of Carlson’s lawyers, said in a statement. “Doubling down on the most catastrophic programming decision in the history of the cable news industry, Fox is now demanding that Tucker Carlson be silent until after the 2024 election. 

“Tucker will not be silenced by anyone,” she added.

The news of the cease-and-desist letter was first reported by Axios. NBC News has not seen the letter, but the source familiar with the matter confirmed that all the details in the Axios report were accurate. Top spokespeople at Fox News did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

The first installment of Carlson’s new show, "Tucker on Twitter," debuted June 6. In a roughly 10-minute video monologue titled “Ep. 1,” he claimed without evidence that Ukraine perpetrated an attack on a large dam in Russian-occupied territory and characterized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in terms that the Anti-Defamation League called antisemitic.

Carlson will address the federal indictment of former President Donald Trump in the next episode of the show, set to premiere Tuesday, according to his producer. Trump is slated to be arraigned in federal court in Miami on Tuesday afternoon.

In a separate letter to Carlson’s lawyers last week that did not expressly demand he stop posting videos on Twitter, Fox News general counsel Bernard Gugar said the former prime-time host was “in breach” of his contract with the network. The contract, signed in November 2019 and amended in February 2021, limits his ability to appear on other media outlets.

In a statement, Bryan Freedman — another attorney for Carlson — insisted that any legal action by Fox News would infringe on the television personality's First Amendment rights.

“Fox defends its very existence on freedom of speech grounds,” Freedman said. “Now they want to take Tucker Carlson’s right to speak freely away from him because he took to social media to share his thoughts on current events.”

The conflict between Fox News and Carlson comes at an inflection point for the conservative media ecosystem. 

Fox’s ratings in the 8 p.m. programming block once occupied by Carlson have lagged since his exit, and the network faces competition from upstart right-wing news sources such as One America News Network (OANN) and Newsmax.

Meanwhile, Twitter owner Elon Musk is attempting to present the social media service as a welcome home for other commentators. He tweeted after Carlson posted the first episode of his program that it “would be great to have shows from all parts of the political spectrum on this platform!”

Carlson’s ouster from Fox News shocked the overlapping worlds of politics and media. “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” a cornerstone of the Fox News lineup since 2016, was one of the most-watched shows on American cable news.

He established himself as one of the most influential figures in a conservative political coalition reshaped by Trump. The TV host regularly drew controversy for incendiary statements about race, immigration, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

In the lead-up to the Dominion trial, Carlson’s internal communications were released and showed him criticizing Trump and acknowledging that claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election were baseless. Carlson later backtracked.