Fox News told Tucker Carlson's lawyers Wednesday that the former star anchor breached his contract with the conservative network when he released the first episode of a new show on Twitter this week, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Carlson, a firebrand right-wing media personality known for his conspiratorial rhetoric, parted ways with Fox News in late April, days after the network agreed to pay nearly $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems to avert a high-stakes defamation trial.
In a letter to Carlson's lawyers, Fox News general counsel Bernard Gugar said the broadcaster was "in breach" of his contract, which was signed in November 2019 and amended in February 2021.
In a statement, Carlson's lawyer, Bryan Freedman, insisted that any legal action by Fox News would infringe on Carlson'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 news was first reported by Axios. NBC News has not seen a copy of the letter; the source with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed that all of the information in the Axios article was accurate.
Top spokespeople at Fox News did not immediately respond to an email and a text message requesting comment on the Axios report.
Carlson launched his new show Tuesday night with a roughly 10-minute video titled "Ep. 1." In the video, Carlson claimed without evidence that Ukraine perpetrated an attack on a large dam in Russian-occupied territory that unleashed devastating floods.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has forcefully accused Russia of carrying out the attack, and U.S. officials have said intelligence suggests Putin's regime was behind the incident. In a briefing Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said President Joe Biden's administration was assessing reports that Russia was responsible.
Moscow denies any involvement.
Twitter owner Elon Musk 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, who established himself as a key voice in the modern conservative movement from his influential perch at Fox News, announced he was creating a show for Twitter in a May 9 video titled "We're back."