Abby Grossberg got off to a flying start at Fox News after she joined the network in 2019 as a senior booking producer for Maria Bartiromo.
“We clicked. We hit it off. And our ratings were skyrocketing,” Grossberg said.
But over the next four years, as she tried and failed to get a promotion and then switched to working for Tucker Carlson, Grossberg says she ran up against a hyper misogynistic culture in which walls were plastered with photos of Nancy Pelosi in a plunging bathing suit and male staffers openly debated which female politicians they’d rather have sex with.
It culminated in Grossberg complaining to a supervisor and then moving to file lawsuits alleging that she was harassed, retaliated against and ultimately set up to be the scapegoat in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News.
“They’re a big corporate machine that destroys people,” Grossberg told NBC News in her most extensive interview to date.
“I sat in those meetings. I heard them laugh about tearing apart politicians. Now I know that in those meetings they’re talking about me.”
For more on this story, tune in to NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt tonight at 6:30pm ET/5:30pm CT or check your local listings.
After this story was published, a Fox News spokesperson sent a statement that described Grossberg's legal claims as "unmeritorious" and "riddled with false allegations against the network and our employees."
The Dominion lawsuit has put the network in a perilous position.
Fox News is accused of repeatedly airing false allegations from Rudy Giuliani and others that the voting machine company “rigged” the 2020 election in favor of Joe Biden. The network has said the claims from lawyers for former President Donald Trump were newsworthy and its coverage was protected by the First Amendment.
Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin on April 13. Dominion indicated this week that it intends to call Grossberg as a witness.
On Thursday, Grossberg’s lawyer Parisis Filippatos filed a motion to intervene in Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox in Delaware to assert her rights to the scope or location of her potential testimony, or alternatively unseal any transcripts concerning her or her testimony. Her lawyers state in the filing that Fox cannot rely on her “coerced, inaccurate, deposition testimony” while simultaneously asking the court to keep references to her testimony sealed.
But Dominion and Fox are still awaiting a summary judgment ruling from the judge that could favor one side, or go forward with the trial.
In the interview, Grossberg said network executives were well aware that she was booking guests like Giuliani and lawyer Sidney Powell for the “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo” show, and that they were likely to spread unfounded conspiracy theories about Dominion’s voting machines.
Grossberg said there was only one thing network executives told her was off limits: a guest criticizing Fox News for being the first network to call Arizona, a crucial swing state, for Biden.
“Because, you know, that kind of impacted the ratings at Fox,” Grossberg said.
Ex-Fox News producer speaks out about false election claims and Jan. 6March 30, 202301:13
Prior to the election, it was not unusual for executives to bar the show from booking certain guests, Grossberg said. But in the days afterward, there was a marked shift, according to Grossberg.
“All of a sudden, it was caution to the wind,” Grossberg said. “There was no one to be found. And these were the individuals that were ultimately responsible for the programming at the network.”
At one point, Grossberg said she received a text message from her boss that she paraphrased as saying: “You can let Maria know there will be no fact checking today. She can do what she wants. … Go wild.”
The Fox News spokesperson said Grossberg's boss "had been referring instead to a practice in which Fox shows sometimes criticized material that had aired elsewhere on the network."
Behind the scenes, Fox executives were fretting over its viewers fleeing the network in favor of startup outlets that were even further to the right and were devoting even more air time to election falsehoods, according to depositions previously released by Dominion.
Grossberg said Bartiromo’s show was so short-staffed that she was forced to do multiple jobs at once. She said she asked for a promotion several times — as well as for additional staffers -- but the requests fell on deaf ears.
All the while, Fox higher-ups referred to Bartiromo as “crazy,” “menopausal” and often “hysterical,” Grossberg said in her suit.
The Fox News spokesperson said the network "cannot verify" those statements and that the people she attributed the remarks to were on the producer level and not in any level of leadership.
Grossberg was still working for Bartiromo when Dominion filed its lawsuit against Fox in 2021. She accepted a job with Carlson’s team in July 2022.
Prior to sitting for a deposition, Grossberg met with Fox lawyers that August. She said they repeatedly coached her to refrain from going into detail about higher-ups at the network.
“I was flat out told, 'You do not want to be the star witness in this case,' when I was very truthful and forthcoming,” Grossberg said.
“I realized that the answers that they wanted me to say were putting me in a very vulnerable position to be the company scapegoat.”
Fox News in spotlight following release of Jan. 6 tapes, Dominion suitMarch 12, 202304:41
She said she was also told at the start that she didn’t need her own lawyer. But after she started questioning and pushing back on some of the lawyers’ advice, the deposition was canceled and her subsequent meetings with Fox lawyers grew more tense.
At one point, she said, they suggested she might be hiding something.
“I was called into a boardroom with the attorneys and made to believe that they had something criminal on me that there was something on my phones or my emails or somewhere that they were looking for it,” Grossberg said.
She said the lawyers told her she would have to get her own lawyer if they found something incriminating on her phone.
“I remember I was shaking,” Grossberg said. “This is a multibillion dollar case. … I said, 'I can’t afford my own attorney.' And they go, 'Well, we’ll see what we find.’”
The Fox News spokesperson said “the assertion that Ms. Grossberg was coached or intimidated into being dishonest during her Dominion deposition is patently false.”
Grossberg was praised after she sat for her deposition in September and toed the company line. She says her colleagues declared it “Abby Day” in celebration.
But she said Fox didn’t give her a copy of the deposition until five months later despite numerous requests. That prevented her from reviewing it and making changes, according to her lawyer who cited rules in Delaware that the deposition should have been turned over in 30 days.
“The type of preparation that they engaged in and the way that they manipulated her goes way beyond the pale, way beyond the pale, of anything I’ve ever experienced,” Grossberg’s lawyer, Gerry Filippatos, said.
One such answer she said she would have changed created an uproar when it was released in a Dominion filing. When asked if she felt it was important to correct a false claim made on the air, Grossberg said no, according to the transcript.
“It felt terrible because I knew that I was bullied, intimidated and coerced into saying that just to keep my job and stay at the company,” Grossberg said. “I made the decision to keep my job so that I can keep paying my bills.”
Grossberg said the revelations from Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s deposition confirmed her suspicions that she and Bartiromo were being “thrown under the bus.” Murdoch identified Bartiromo as one of the hosts who had done more than just given a platform to baseless claims of voter fraud.
“They endorsed,” Murdoch said, according to a transcript.
Said Grossberg: “It’s really, really terrifying to think that you could be the fall guy in perhaps the biggest media case the country’s ever had.”
Grossberg sued Fox News in Delaware and New York on March 20.
The lawsuits alleged that the network had a “toxic workplace” culture of discrimination and that company lawyers “coerced, intimidated, and misinformed” her as they prepared her to testify in Dominion’s defamation suit.
Fox fired her last week, alleging she had disclosed privileged information in her legal claims despite being warned that she was "not authorized to disclose it publicly." Grossberg alleges in amended complaints that her firing was retaliation for taking legal action.
The stress and anxiety had prompted Grossberg to take a medical leave from Fox earlier this year.
It got so bad, she said, that she called a crisis hotline one night. During a walk home from the office, she said she had found herself thinking that she could step in front of a car.
“And I wouldn’t have to go to work tomorrow,” Grossberg said. “That crossed my mind. It definitely did. I really had no hope in those moments.”
Grossberg said she's in a better place now. She hopes her story will inspire others in similar situations to speak up.
“It takes a lot of courage, but it also feels really good and really validating to be able to say this isn’t OK," she said.