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Braiker writes: "News Corp lawyers threaten site with legal action after firing an employee who leaked embarrassing material over two days."

Gawker's Fox mole Joe Muto, who described the grim working conditions at the network and leaked footage of Sean Hannity. (photo: Gawker)
Gawker's Fox mole Joe Muto, who described the grim working conditions at the network and leaked footage of Sean Hannity. (photo: Gawker)

Fox Mole in Legal Hole as Gawker Raises Gossip Stakes

By Brian Braiker, Guardian UK

13 April 12


awker's gleeful provocation of Fox News with the help of the "mole" it hired this week has reached its logical conclusion: lawyers for Fox have sent Gawker a cease-and-desist order accompanied by a threat of legal action for "criminal and civil wrongdoing".

Joe Muto, who came to be known as the Fox Mole over the course of two bizarre days, was hired by Gawker to anonymously post stories about what it's like to work for the top-rated News Corp channel.

The network was not amused. And Muto did not remain anonymous – or, for that matter, employed – for much longer.

"Be advised that Muto's admissions are admissions of likely criminal and civil wrongdoing on both his and Gawker's part, which will be the subject of further extensive investigation. Fox News will pursue its rights and remedies in the appropriate legal forums," Thursday's letter from Epstein Becker & Green PC to Gawker read.

Gawker posted the letter on its website, but refused to take any of Muto's content down, including a photo of Fox host Bill O'Reilly on a speedboat with a group of people that included a topless young woman. (Gawker is going through a particularly belligerent phase at the moment, under its new editor, AJ Daulerio.)

"We'll explain where it came from later", Gawker promised darkly.

Muto, an O'Reilly Factor associate producer until Wednesday, began anonymously posting to the media and gossip site on Tuesday, describing the grim working conditions at the network and even leaking footage of a Mitt Romney and Sean Hannity interview never intended for air.

Fox News, notoriously intolerant of even the slightest dissent among its ranks, circled the wagons and identified Muto later that day. Prompting ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. to tweet:

Like some kamikaze blogger on a suicide mission, Muto, who was hired by Fox in 2004, posted a note addressed to network head Roger Ailes. "Hi Roger. It's me, Joe: the Fox Mole." He outed himself and said he was still employed by Fox News, but suspended with pay.

Not for long.

Fox News later issued a statement which read: "Joe Muto has been fired. Once the network determined that Mr Muto was the main culprit in less than 24 hours, he was suspended late yesterday while we pursued concurrent avenues. We are continuing to explore legal recourse against Mr Muto and possibly others."

Muto, whose greatest hits at Gawker included posting a photo of Fox News bathroom stalls, tweeted a picture of his termination letter.

Gawker and O'Reilly have a prickly relationship in which the gossip site has long taken great delight in O'Reilly's various personal and professional foibles. Last August Gawker posted a lengthy item about the TV host entitled How Bill O'Reilly Tried to Get His Wife's Boyfriend Investigated By the Cops.

Where this particular drama goes next, and what those "criminal" charges might be, is anyone's guess. But it's a slow-motion trainwreck that has left many media watchers scratching their heads.

Muto himself admitted just about anyone could have spotted this shitstorm on the horizon: your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+43 # pernsey 2012-04-13 14:55
I cant stand Fox news or Bill Orally, Im glad that some of this is coming out. The whole premise of Fox News is a train wreck.

Its too bad Fox news cant be charged with lying on their "News" broadcasts...oh thats right a judge already made it legal for them to lie to the general public.
+19 # dick 2012-04-14 07:06
What's particularly vile about FAUX is their disdain for their own loyal chumps. They exploit the mentally & emotionally vulnerable & incite the unstable. There's an "Ailes" SUCKER born every second.

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