Fox News has demanded that Tucker Carlson stop posting videos to Twitter, escalating the dispute between the network and his former star host over how — and whether — he can continue to speak publicly now that his primetime show is off the air.
In a letter from Fox’s lawyers to Mr. Carlson, the network accused him of violating the terms of his contract, which runs through early 2025 and limits his ability to appear in media outlets other than Fox. The letter is labeled “not for publication” in capital letters.
Since being ousted by Fox News, Mr. Carlson has begun producing a bare-bones version of his Fox show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and posting it directly to Twitter. The new show, “Tucker on Twitter,” carries some of the hallmarks of his primetime show on Fox, including a monologue focused on current affairs and cultural issues.
Harmeet K. Dhillon, an attorney representing Mr. Carlson, said in a statement that the legal threat from Fox News was not in the best interest of the network’s audience.
“Fox doubles down on the most catastrophic programming decision in cable news industry history and is now demanding that Tucker Carlson remain silent until after the 2024 election,” the statement said. “Tucker will not be silenced by anyone.”
Justin Wells, former executive producer of Mr. Carlson, said on Twitter that the next episode of Mr. Carlson’s show, expected on Tuesday, will feature Mr. Carlson’s response to the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump.
Axios previously reported that Fox sent Mr. Carlson the cease and desist letter.
A Fox News spokeswoman said the network had no comment.
Fox’s decision to take Mr. Carlson off the air shocked him and the wider media and political world when the network announced the move in a terse four-sentence statement. According to interviews with people within the company, a series of public relations and management headaches led to his demise. Much to the dismay of Fox senior executives, including Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch, Mr. Carlson continued to propagate conspiracy theories about the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. A former Carlson producer filed a lawsuit claiming he allowed a hostile, sexist workplace to flourish.
And as part of the defamation lawsuit against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems, which the network settled in April for $787.5 million, Mr. Carlson, showing how he spoke contemptuously of Fox executives and Mr. Trump.
After discovering a particularly inflammatory text from Mr. Carlson, the Fox Corporation board decided to launch an internal investigation into his conduct. He was out a few days later.
Mr. Carlson’s cancellation — he’s still an employee of Fox unless the network decides to terminate his contract — has rocked Fox’s lucrative and popular prime-time lineup. Fox, the perennial top-rated cable news network, has seen its lead over its competitors slip. About a third of the primetime audience has dropped out since Mr. Carlson was taken off the air.
Fox News resented a public battle with its former star, who has led one of the largest followings in conservative media and has demonstrated a distinctive ability to shape some of the biggest policy debates in Republican politics. The network has been publicly silent when Mr. Carlson and his associates threatened – mostly through anonymous media leaks – to release their own programs, attacking Fox in the process.
Fox’s attempt to get Mr. To force Carlson off Twitter indicates that talks between his lawyers and network representatives are becoming tense and Fox executives are becoming more pessimistic about reaching an out-of-court settlement on the terms of his departure.
The lawyers of Mr. Carlson have argued that Fox News first terminated its contract with Mr. Carlson violated, in part by failing to prevent his private messages from being made public. The former Fox host also believes his Twitter show is protected speech under the First Amendment, according to a person with knowledge of Mr. Carlson’s legal strategy.
The Twitter videos of Mr. Carlson – recorded in his studio in Maine – have received a lot of attention from the news media. Twitter does not release data on how much time its users spend watching videos, making it impossible to know how many people have viewed Mr. Carlson’s posts over an extended period of time.
Mr. Carlson joins a long list of TV news stars who have tried to use their fame to reach mass audiences without the platform of a major broadcaster or cable network behind them. Success is not easy to quantify. Katie Couric of CBS News and Ted Koppel of ABC News found it difficult to replicate the influence they once had after starting their own ventures. A string of former Fox News stars have also seen their influence wane, including Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly.
Even Oprah Winfrey struggled to convert her massive star power into ratings with the launch of her cable network OWN.