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Fox News, Dominion Both Slam Report Saying Tucker Carlson’s Ouster Was a Settlement Condition: ‘Categorically False’

Fox Corp. and Dominion Voting systems are both staunchly refuting a report that Tucker Carlson was fired following a secret handshake deal as part of the massive defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, expressing both publicly and privately that the very idea is laughable and separately using the words “categorically false.”

The Tuesday report from Variety claims Carlson, the top-rated host on Fox News before he was canned on April 24, learned in a phone call with an unnamed member of Fox Corp.’s eight board members two days later that his ousting was a condition of Fox News’ $787.5 million defamation settlement with Dominion. It was a verbal agreement, not part of the written deal the companies signed to stop the case from going to trial, the report said, citing “multiple sources with knowledge of the conversation.”

The report further said that not canning Carlson would have scuttled the settlement, meaning that the trial featuring most of Fox’s top names as witnesses would have then moved forward. Considering the amount of embarrassing material in discovery alone, a trial certainly had the potential for more cringe details going public.

But both Fox and Dominion were swift to issue statements refuting the idea. People close to the settlement, using words like “flabbergasted” and other, more colorful language, told TheWrap that Dominion had no designs whatsoever on Carlson, noting that the “Tucker Carlson Tonight” host was openly and privately more skeptical of empty fraud claims than perhaps any other Fox News host in the weeks and months after the 2020 election.

“As the Fox principals who negotiated the settlement well know, Dominion made no demands about Tucker Carlson’s employment orally or in writing,” Dominion said in a written statement to TheWrap. “Any claims otherwise are categorically false and a thinly veiled effort to further damage Dominion. Fox should take every effort to stop these lies immediately.”

Fox did make such an effort, also disputing a separate reported by Axios last week saying Carlson accused the network of fraud and breach of contract and was preparing pressure Fox to release him from his $20 million deal, which contains a non-compete clause that limits his ability to appear elsewhere.

“We denied this to Variety and did the same with Axios as being categorically false,” Fox spokeswoman Caley Cronin said in an email. She referred to the company’s initial statement about Carlson’s departure, which did not offer a reason behind his firing.

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Theories regarding the reason behind Carlson’s ouster have been popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, from a disturbing text he sent about watching a mob attack a liberal protester that surfaced during the Dominion case discovery process, to a separate lawsuit brought by a former producer who alleges that Carlson ruled over a “toxic” workplace where she was subject to sexist and antisemtic jokes, to a personal feud with Fox executives. Other reports have claimed it was a combination of these factors.

For his part, Carlson has said he has “no clue” why he got the boot.

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While broadly supporting former President Donald Trump and more recently defending the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Carlson was not as vocal in his repetition of the false claims over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election as were other hosts like Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo. But Carlson was cable news’ most-watched personality and Dominion was looking to stymie the network, according to Variety.

“That condition was intended to hurt Fox, and Tucker is just collateral damage,” the report cited an unnamed source as saying. “Dominion wanted to punish Fox, and it’s working.” Fox’s ratings have fallen precipitously during Carlson’s old time slot since his exit.

Meanwhile, Carlson announced plans last week to bring a version of his show to Twitter.

Josh Dickey contributed reporting to this story.