New York Times reveals Tucker Carlson text message that “set off a panic” at Fox News

Carlson discussed Antifa murder fantasy and "how white men fight" in text that prompted internal Fox investigation

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published May 3, 2023 9:03AM (EDT)

Tucker Carlson speaks during 2022 FOX Nation Patriot Awards on November 17, 2022 in Hollywood, Florida. (Jason Koerner/Getty Images)
Tucker Carlson speaks during 2022 FOX Nation Patriot Awards on November 17, 2022 in Hollywood, Florida. (Jason Koerner/Getty Images)

The New York Times on Tuesday published a text message that "set off a panic" at the highest levels of Fox ahead of its $787 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems.

The discovery of the text "contributed to the chain of events" that ultimately led to the host's firing, according to the report.

Carlson in the message sent to a producer hours after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot described his reaction to a video of Trump supporters beating an "Antifa kid."

"It was three against one, at least," he wrote. "Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It's not how white men fight."

Carlson wrote that he "suddenly" found himself "rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they'd hit him harder, kill him."

"I really wanted them to hurt the kid," he wrote. "I could taste it."

Carlson said that then an "alarm" went off in his brain that "this isn't good for me."

"I'm becoming something I don't want to be," he wrote. "The Antifa creep is a human being. Much as I despise what he says and does, much as I'm sure I'd hate him personally if I knew him, I shouldn't gloat over his suffering. I should be bothered by it. I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves the kid, and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don't care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?"

The Times report acknowledged that Carlson had spent years espousing white nationalist rhetoric but the text "revealed more about his views on racial superiority" and alarmed the Fox board, which saw the text a day before the Dominion trial was set to begin.

The board was concerned that the message would become public when Carlson took the stand and brought in an outside law firm to investigate Carlson's conduct.

The message contributed to the "growing number" of internal issues related to Carlson that led the company to decide that he had to go, according to the report.

But it's unclear why the text was not noticed earlier. Fox's lawyers produced the text in discovery and were involved in redactions, according to the Times, and Carlson was even asked about it during his deposition.

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Critics of the network argued that it strained credulity that Fox executives were unaware of Carlson's views before seeing the text.

"Fox was shocked to discover that the racial worldview Tucker expressed in his private texts was the same as the one he expressed on the air," tweeted The Atlantic's Yair Rosenberg.

"Incredible that NYT is taking Fox execs at their word that they were horrified to learn Tucker is racist," wrote The Intercept's Ken Klippenstein.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan played a supercut of Carlson's racist rhetoric on his show.

"If you're surprised or shocked by the Tucker text revealed by the Times tonight, then you really ought to see and hear what he was saying out in the open on his nightly show," he tweeted.

Just on Tuesday, Fox News host Jesse Watters discussed how "you can tell" someone is "illegal" just by looking at them.

The segment came "on the air the same day the NYT reports on the racist Tucker Carlson text that supposedly helped prod Fox executives to fire him," wrote former CNN host John Harwood, adding, "this is embedded in Fox's DNA."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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