Federal Prosecutor Investigating Leaked Tucker Carlson Fox News Footage; Report Links Probe To Search Of Media Consultant’s Home — Update
UPDATED: A federal prosecutor is investigating the alleged hack of internal Fox News video footage of former host Tucker Carlson, as clips have surfaced on Vice and watchdog group Media Matters for America.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the probe is linked to a recent FBI search of the home of media consultant Tim Burke, who formerly worked for Deadspin and The Daily Beast, and is married to Tampa Bay City Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak.
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The Times cited a letter that Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant sent to the network, in which he wrote that Fox News was one of the “potential victim-witnesses” of the hacking. Deadline also obtained the letter, dated on Thursday, in which Trezevant wrote that the investigation is of allegations of unauthorized computer access, interception of wire, oral or electronic communication, conspiracy and other federal statutes.
As of yet, no one has been accused of wrongdoing or charged in the case. William Daniels, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Tampa, told Deadline that the office had no information given that the investigation is ongoing. A spokesperson for Fox News declined comment, and Burke and Hurtak did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Around the time of the search of their home, Hurtak said that the search appeared to be “solely related to my husband’s work as a journalist.”
In his letter, Trezevant wrote that the investigation concerned clips that Vice News’ Motherboard obtained last October, featuring outtakes from Carlson’s interview with Kanye West. In the clips, West makes antisemitic comments and other bizarre claims, but that footage was left out of the final broadcast of the interview.
Trezevant also wrote that the investigation concerned clips that progressive watchdog group Media Matters for America posted as part of a recent series called FoxLeaks, featuring unaired footage of Carlson. In the clips, Carlson bashed the network’s streaming service Fox Nation, where he had a regular show, and made offensive comments about women, among other remarks.
Earlier this month, Fox News fired off a cease and desist letter to Media Matters over the footage, but the organization quickly rejected their demands.
In his letter, Trezevant wrote that prosecutors were not “making any suggestions of wrongdoing against the ultimate publisher of the items. Instead, the criminal conduct under investigation concerns the initial unauthorized computer intrusions and interceptions of electronic communications by other subjects (who were/are neither employees of nor affiliated with Fox) to secure those items.”
The letter did not mention Burke or a search of his home.
A spokesperson for Vice declined comment on the leak investigation. Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, said in a statement, “Reporting on newsworthy leaked material is a cornerstone of journalism. Over the years, Media Matters has reported on leaked materials exposing Fox’s misinformation, malevolence and malfeasance. We’re going to continue doing just that. Like any respectable media outlet, we won’t discuss confidential sourcing of any of our materials.”
Trezevant requested that Fox News preserve information, records and documents “relating to any unauthorized computer intrusions and interceptions of electronic communications” as federal officials pursue their investigation. He also requested that the network preserve information on the value of losses to the network, including “costs associated with the research, development and production of the property of the value of the property.”
Carlson has announced that he will be bringing his show to Twitter. His attorney, Bryan Freedman, sent a letter to the network claiming that it breached his Fox News contract. Carlson’s agreement runs through 2025 and is said to include a non-compete clause. Freeman also has suggested that the network is behind the leak of Carlson’s private communications.
Burke appeared in the Netflix documentary Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, in which he recounted his work for Deadspin on a story that revealed that Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s story about the death of his girlfriend was a hoax.
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