In Text Messages, Fox News Host Tucker Carlson Called Trump 'Demonic Force,' Doubted Election Fraud

In messages sent from Fox News personalities and executives, Trump's false election claims and his team that peddled them were referred to as "f---ing lunatics," "complete bs," and "mind blowingly nuts"

tucker carlson, donald trump
Tucker Carlson (left) and President Donald Trump. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty; Doug MIlls-Pool/Getty

A court filing made public this week reveals that Fox News hosts including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham were privately critical of Donald Trump's claims that the 2020 election was stolen, with Carlson going so far as to call the former president "demonic." Publicly, however, the network continued to offer a platform to Trump loyalists who amplified the false claims.

The court filing — part of a case brought by voting equipment company Dominion Voting Systems — includes excerpts of text messages sent from and to some of the network's hosts and executives. Among the exchanges are several that describe Trump's false election claims and those that peddled them as "f---ing lunatics," "complete bs," and "mind blowingly nuts."

In a statement sent to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for Fox said: "There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan."

Th network filed an amended counterclaim on Thursday, with the spokesperson adding that Dominion "mischaracterized the record, cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context, and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law."

Below, some of the most explosive made public in the filing.

Sidney Powell
Sidney Powell. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity called Trump attorney Sidney Powell "a complete nut"

Among the emails and text messages made public in the filing are several about Sidney Powell, an attorney who worked for the Trump team during its failed attempts to overturn the election results, and was later dropped after making a number of outlandish and unsubstantiated claims.

"Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry but she is," Ingraham wrote in a text message sent to Carlson and Hannity on Nov. 15, 2020, per the filing.

"Sidney Powell is lying. F---ing b----," Carlson wrote to Ingraham on Nov. 18.

"Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy [Giuliani]," Ingraham responded.

Powell and Giuliani were two of the most vocal defenders of the false claim that the 2020 election was rife with fraud, holding several press conferences in which they made the claims but did not back them up with any evidence. The two were also front and center during the Trump campaign's numerous unsuccessful legal challenges to the election, which found no widespread election problems in any state.

Tucker Carlson
Tucker Carlson. Rich Polk/Getty

Carlson called Trump "a demonic force" and worried the president would "destroy" Fox News

Carlson, in other conversations in the wake of the election, privately took aim at Trump himself, calling the then-president "the undisputed world champion" of "destroying things," and worrying that he would "destroy us if we play it wrong."

By Jan. 6, hours after a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Carlson was again criticizing Trump, texting a colleague that the then-president was "a demonic force, a destroyer. But he's not going to destroy us."

Other messages made public in the filing demonstrate that Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch also expressed disbelief in Trump's election fraud claims, which he called "really crazy stuff," writing in an email to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott that the claims were "damaging everybody, I fear."

Scott, in a reply, wrote: "Yes Sean [Hannity] and even [Jeanine] Pirro agrees."

Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity. Paul Zimmerman/Getty

Despite privately doubting the fraud claims, Fox News personalities worked to ensure the network didn't publicly shoot them down

While Hannity and Carlson privately voiced their concerns about the election lies, they were also working behind the scenes to ensure the network didn't appear to be doubting Trump's claims, the complaint alleges.

After Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked a Trump tweet about Dominion, noting there was no evidence that any votes had been destroyed, Carlson texted both Ingraham and Hannity: "Please get her fired. Seriously… What the f---? It's measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke."

The network's White House correspondent Kristin Fisher was also reprimanded by network higher-ups after she offered a fact-check of a now infamous press conference featuring Giuliani and Powell, in which the two made a number of outrageous and unsubstantiated claims about Dominion, which they falsely said was working with communist Venezuela to interfere in the U.S. election. (Dominion was founded in Toronto and is now based in Denver.)

According to the filing, Fisher received a call from her boss, Washington Bureau Chief Bryan Boughton, immediately after she fact-checked Giuliani and Powell's claims, "in which he emphasized that higher-ups at Fox News were also unhappy with it, and that Fisher needed to do a better job of, this is a quote, 'respecting our audience.' "

According to Dominion's legal filing, Fox News allowed Trump's allies to peddle the false narrative about election fraud because it felt that viewers were revolting after the network correctly called the state of Arizona for Joe Biden — a historic flip of a red state that infuriated Trump.

"Fox's correct call of Arizona for Joe Biden triggered a backlash among its audience and the 'network [was] being rejected.' ... So Fox went on war footing caring more about protecting its own falling viewership than about the truth," Dominion argues in its complaint.

Maria Bartiromo
Maria Bartiromo. Fox Business

The network gave Sidney Powell a platform one day after learning that a source of her election fraud claims was an anonymous email from someone who claimed to be a ghost

Among the more bizarre revelations made public in the filing is that Fox agreed to have Powell as a guest on the network, despite learning that one of the sources of her voter fraud conspiracy was an email from a person who claimed to be a ghost and espoused a false conspiracy theory that former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had been murdered during a "weeklong human hunting expedition."

Even the author of the email — entitled "Election Fraud Info" — described the information as "pretty wackadoodle," adding: "Who am I? And how do know all of this? I've had the strangest dreams since I was a little girl was internally decapitated, and yet, I live. The Wind tells me I'm a ghost, but I don't believe it."

Fox News host Maria Bartiromo read that email on Nov. 7, 2020, the filing claims, and still interviewed Powell on her show just one day later.

Dominion found itself the target of conspiracies of widespread election fraud and other wrongdoing in the wake of the November 2020 presidential election, eventually suing several of Trump's closest allies, including Fox News, for allegedly repeating lies about them.

Dominion lawyer Stephen Shackelford earlier told The New York Times, "Many of the highest-ranking Fox people have admitted under oath that they never believed the Dominion lies."

In March 2021, Dominion sued Fox News Media in Delaware for $1.6 billion, according to a copy of the complaint shared with the press.

"Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process," the complaint states.

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