Labor & Employment

Law Firm's Letter to Gawker re Outed 'Fox Mole' Evokes Much Analysis

It didn’t take long after Gawker announced Tuesday that it had hired an individual within Fox News to write about the company before the broadcaster publicly identified the “Fox mole” and fired associate producer Joe Muto of The O’Reilly Factor on Wednesday.

But the fallout continues as a panoply of news media weigh in on the company’s subsequent threats of legal action Thursday against Gawker and Muto, concerning a role that ended almost as soon as it began and involved exposure of little more than photos of Fox News restrooms.

There probably are viable claims to be made against both, says the Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq. blog.

Muto probably has exposure concerning breach of a confidentiality agreement, assuming that he was required by Fox to sign one (the New York Daily News says he wasn’t bound by a nondisclosure agreement), and there could be common-law causes of action such as unfair competition, the blog notes.

“It’s a problem that this employee is alleged to have done these things, especially handing over footage belonging to Fox while he was still on the Fox payroll,” said partner Michael Novicoff of Liner Grode Stein. “It doesn’t help that he actually described himself as a “weasel, a traitor and a sell-out” on Gawker.

Likewise, a Thursday letter sent to Gawker threatening legal action by Epstein Becker & Green (the New York Observer published an annotated version explaining its view of the players and the terms of art) points to a possible tortious interference claim.

However, Fox has at least as much to lose by pursuing legal action as by letting it go, Novicoff tells the Hollywood Reporter. Proving damages could be problematic, and meanwhile the broadcaster could reveal more information it doesn’t want to make public by suing.

Fox was able to identify Muto quickly because he used his work computer to distribute the video Gawker posted, the New York Daily News notes.

Additional coverage:

Slate: ““Fox Mole” Joe Muto Has Been Fired, Fox Considering Legal Action”

Times Union: “Fox News fires ‘Fox Mole’ at Gawker”

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