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Fired Tucker Carlson producer: Misogyny and bullying 'trickles down from the top'

Tucker Carlson at the FOX Nation Patriot Awards on Nov. 17, 2022 in Hollywood, Fla.
Jason Koerner
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Tucker Carlson at the FOX Nation Patriot Awards on Nov. 17, 2022 in Hollywood, Fla.

Updated April 28, 2023 at 12:52 PM ET

Allegations painting Fox News as an abusive workplace that excuses misogyny and anti-Semitism have been put on blast in the aftermath of star host Tucker Carlson's abrupt firing earlier this week.

Misogyny was "blatant" on Carlson's show and across Fox News, Abby Grossberg, a former senior booker for Tucker Carlson Tonight told NPR's Leila Fadel on Morning Edition.

"They don't care about telling the truth and they don't care about women," Grossberg said of Fox News. "All they care about are ratings and revenue."

Fox has not explained the reasoning behind Carlson's dismissal, which came a week after it settled a high-profile lawsuit with the election-tech company Dominion Voting Systems. The network also fired Carlson's executive producer, Justin Wells.

Both Carlson and Wells are named as individual defendants in an ongoing lawsuit by Grossberg, who is suing them and the network for gender and religious discrimination, as well as unequal pay and failing to accommodate disabilities in federal court in New York.

Grossberg began working at the show in September 2022, moving over from Fox's Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo. In her suit, Grossberg describes an environment at Fox News that "subjugates women based on vile sexist stereotypes, typecasts religious minorities and belittles their traditions, and demonstrates little to no regard for those suffering from mental illness."

"We're just following Tucker's tone"

Grossberg said her complaints about abuse were dismissed.

"I ultimately went and complained to one of my supervisors about the abuse and the bullying and the gaslighting and misogyny that I was putting up with at Tucker," Grossberg said. "And his response to me was, 'We're just following Tucker's tone. That's Tucker's tone.' And I do really believe that it all trickles down from the top."

When asked if she blames Carlson for the toxic environment, Grossberg said that she does. "It's his show," she said.

She worked on the show just a few months before seeking medical leave for anxiety and depression in January.

"Fox News engaged an independent outside counsel to immediately investigate the concerns raised by Ms. Grossberg, which were made following a critical performance review," according to a statement from a Fox News spokesperson.

Grossberg sued in March; the network fired her days after.

Grossberg, who is Jewish, also alleges in her lawsuit that she and other Jewish colleagues were ridiculed for their faith. She told NPR that she raised her concerns to Fox.

Sometime after that, Grossberg said she came into work and found "holiday decorations everywhere," including a Christmas tree next to her desk. "There was a crassly written, handwritten sign on that tree that read 'Hanukkah Bush' next to my desk, which I found to be offensive," she said.

Grossberg said she reported that incident to human resources but the department dismissed her concerns, saying other Jewish employees didn't feel the same.

"I was told that didn't offend them, so that made it okay. It was more about feelings than facts," Grossberg said, adding, "I think that translates on air as well."

At Carlson's show, male colleagues regularly made comments that were demeaning to women, according to Grossberg. "There were conversations that women who had tattoos or piercings or colored hair were disgusting," Grossberg told Fadel.

Before joining the team, Grossberg said she thought Carlson's racist and misogynistic remarks were all for show.

"I was hopeful that maybe there was a kinder person behind the on-air persona," Grossberg said, "but unfortunately, it's quite the reverse."

"What's being said in the office by his team and also his lieutenants who are carrying out his orders is very consistent with what ends up on the air and what the public sees," said Grossberg.

Carlson: "I never met her"

In a brief statement issued Monday morning, the network announced it had "agreed to part ways" with Carlson, who had been widely considered to be the face of the Fox News brand.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his firing, Carlson posted a vague two-minute video to Twitter on Wednesday night.

"True things prevail," he said in the video. "Where can you still find Americans saying true things? There aren't many places left, but there are some, and that's enough. As long as you can hear the words, there is hope. See you soon."

In response to a question about Grossberg's allegations, Carlson told NPR, "I know nothing about her. I never met her."

Indeed, Grossberg told NPR's Leila Fadel that the show staff was based in New York, but Carlson mostly worked from Maine or Florida, "where he doesn't have to take accountability for what he says on air or what goes on in the office. And I think that's very deliberate. And he has three men that carry out his orders and make sure that we do follow."

Grossberg said she was "in disbelief" when she heard that Carlson had been fired.

"Obviously I'm at the center of this with two suits that he's named in. And I also endured a very abusive atmosphere in his office. So feelings were mixed. It went from being very excited to, you know, that there was some justice to also not wanting anybody to be hurt that was there that had lost their jobs," she said.

Grossberg says Fox attorneys pressured her to lie in Dominion case

In a separate suit filed in Delaware, Grossberg is suing the network and its attorneys. She says they set her up to take the blame, along with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, for broadcasting the falsehoods about election fraud in 2020 that were at the heart of Dominion's defamation case against Fox.

Grossberg alleges that Fox attorneys pressured her to lie under oath in order to downplay the misogyny she says is rampant at Fox News.

"The assertion that Ms. Grossberg was coached or intimidated into being dishonest during her Dominion deposition is patently false. We will continue to vigorously defend Fox against her unmeritorious legal claims, which are riddled with false allegations against the network and our employees," according to a second statement from a Fox News spokesperson.

Although Fox settled the suit with Dominion earlier this month, paying it $787.5 million to avert a trial, there's more still to come.

Another voting-tech company, Smartmatic, which is headquartered in London, has also sued Fox News for defamation over election fraud lies. It is seeking $2.7 billion in damages.

"We will be ready to defend this case surrounding extremely newsworthy events when it goes to trial, likely in 2025," according to the Fox News spokesperson. "As a report prepared by our financial expert shows, Smartmatic's damages claims are implausible, disconnected from reality, and on its face intended to chill First Amendment freedoms."

Lawyers for Smartmatic have subpoenaed Grossberg in that case.

David Folkenflik contributed to this story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mary Yang
Mary Yang is an intern on the Business Desk where she covers technology, media, labor and the economy. She comes to NPR from Foreign Policy where she covered the beginning of Russia's war in Ukraine and built a beat on Southeast Asia, Asia and the Pacific Islands.