Fox News reporter "blindsided" after court filing reveals Carlson and Hannity tried to get her fired

Fox hosts schemed to get Jacqui Heinrich axed for fact-checking election claims they knew were false, messages show

Published February 17, 2023 11:50AM (EST)

Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson conspired to try to get one of their colleagues fired for daring to fact-check false claims about the election, according to a nearly 200-page brief in Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit against the network. 

In the days after former President Donald Trump's 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden, Fox News correspondent Jacqui Heinrich accurately debunked a Trump tweet about Dominion that mentioned Hannity's show by name, according to the brief, writing that "top election infrastructure officials" confirmed that "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."

On November 12, 2020, in a group chat between Carlson, Hannity, and fellow host Laura Ingraham, Carlson told Hannity to "please get her [Heinrich] fired," in a series of messages obtained by Dominion. 

"Seriously...What the fuck?" Carlson wrote. "I'm actually shocked...It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It's measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke." 

Carlson added that he "just went crazy on" Executive Vice President Meade Cooper "over it."

Hannity told Carlson that he already mentioned the incident to CEO Suzanne Scott with the message "really?" and later texted the group, "I just dropped a bomb."

"Sean texted me — he's standing down on responding but not happy about this and doesn't understand how this is allowed to happen from anyone in news," Scott wrote in a message to Fox News President Jay Wallace and Fox News Senior Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications Irena Briganti, according to the court filing.

Scott added that Heinrich "has serious nerve doing this and if this gets picked up, viewers are going to be further disgusted." 

By the next morning, Heinrich deleted her tweet, and replaced it with one that fact-checked Trump quoting another far-right channel, One America News. 

After the Dominion brief was unsealed on Thursday night, CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy revealed that "Heinrich was blindsided reading the details in the legal filing" and that she "was not aware of the efforts by top hosts behind the scenes to get her fired," citing a source with direct knowledge.

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In addition to the shocking messages regarding Heinrich, several other texts mentioned in the Dominion court documents showed that several Fox News hosts and guests implied or baselessly claimed that the voting machines were part of a conspiracy to keep Trump from a second term despite admitting that the claims were "crazy."

"The messages exposed Fox News as a propaganda network," Darcy said Friday on CNN This Morning. "That's what they do at the core."

When asked about Dominion's brief, Briganti, a spokesperson for Fox News, claimed that the voting machine company "cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context," in a statement to Insider.

"There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan," her statement read. 

However, Darcy told the CNN panel that the leaked text messages "show in excruciating detail that the highest ranking executives at Fox News: Rupert Murdoch, Suzanne Scott, the CEO, as well as some of the top hosts like you just said, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham, they knew, they privately knew the election claim frauds." 

"Fraud claims from the Trump team were nonsense," he added. "They used very harsh language to describe them. But they allowed the lies to take hold on the network's air."

The text messages revealed concerns among Fox News hosts and executives that viewers may abandon the network for its right-wing competitor, Newsmax.

"You remember that Donald Trump was attacking Fox News, was saying 'turn the channel. Go to this Newsmax channel' which is saturating the airwaves with election denialism. They were worried about this," Darcy continued. "And not only did they turn a blind eye to the election lies, but they even in some cases tried cracking down on those fact-checking Trump."

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

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