Less than 24 hours after Gawker introduced "The Fox Mole," a column by an employee of Fox News Channel leaking inside information, Fox announced it has figured out it was Associate Producer Joe Muto and says he has been fired.
ABC News reports Fox News spokesman said on Wednesday: “Joe Muto is fired effective April 12. Once the network determined that Mr. Muto was the main culprit in less than 24 hours, he was suspended late today while we pursued concurrent avenues. We are continuing to explore legal recourse against Mr. Muto and possibly others."
Muto's column that debuted on Tuesday, promised readers inside information from Fox News' Headquarters. His first post included a new video of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, discussing horseback riding with Fox News host Sean Hannity. The "inaugural" column began:
"I always intended to keep my mouth shut. The plan was simple: get hired, keep my head down and my views to myself, work for a few months, build my resume, then eventually hop to a new job that didn't make me cringe every morning when I looked in the mirror. That was years ago. My cringe muscles have turned into crow's feet. The ten resumes a month I was sending out dwindled into five, then two, then one, then zero. No one wants me. I'm blacklisted. I work at Fox News Channel."
Muto's major grouse was with Fox Nation, which he described as: "an unholy mashup of the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post and a Klan meeting." According to Muto, "Word around the office is that the site was actually the brainchild of Bill O'Reilly's chief stalker (and Gawker pal) Jesse Watters."
The second post showed photos of the Fox News' bathrooms, and began:
"Fox HQ in New York is a truly soul-crushing workplace. Our building is connected to the labyrinthine system of tunnels radiating out from Rockefeller Center, which means I can go straight from the train into the News Corp. building without going above ground. At first this seems like a convenience...but eventually it just adds to the depression ('I literally have not seen the sun once since I left my apartment this morning.')."
Muto described the newsroom as "dreary, with no windows, fluorescent lighting," and staffers constantly "worrying about an infestation from bedbugs, mice or some other vermin."
Muto, in his first post, said after years of working at the news network, “the final straw for me came last year.” An article on Fox Nation (a site he describes as the "seedy underbelly of the Fox News online empire") titled: "Obama's Hip Hop BBQ Didn't Create Jobs," was the "post that broke the camel's back." He described the article as summing up
"Everything that had been troubling me about my employer: Non sequitur, ad hominem attacks on the president; gleeful race baiting; a willful disregard for facts; and so on. It came close on the heels of the Common controversy, which exhibited a lot of the same ugly traits."
"the worst thing about the Hip Hop BBQ incident is that we didn't back away from it...The story still exists on the Fox Nation site, headline and photo montage intact, to this very day."
Then why didn't he just leave Fox? He explained: "
"I've asked myself that same thing many times. And I am leaving. Sooner rather than later, I'm guessing. But I can't just leave quietly, can I? Where's the fun in that? So I'm John McClane-ing this shit. I'm inside the building, crawling through the air vents, gathering intel, and passing it along to Carl Winslow."
But "The Fox Mole" must have known it couldn't last forever. In a "Fox Mole" post on Gawker Wednesday afternoon, he wrote: “So Fox’s PR team has been telling people that they have ‘found’ me and are presently ‘exploring legal options.’ If Fox has smoked me out, it’s news to me. I’m still here. Back to work.”
Fox News responded, saying: “We know who it is.”
Fox, according to ABC News, finally confronted "The Mole," and late on Wednesday, after he was suspended, he mentioned his real name for the first time: “Hi Roger. It’s Me, Joe: The Fox Mole.”Muto wrote: “Two hours ago I was called into a meeting with Dianne Brandi, the Fox News Executive Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs and suspended indefinitely...with pay, oddly enough. They nailed me. In the end, it was the digital trail that gave me away. They knew that someone, using my computer login, had accessed the sources for two videos that ended up on Gawker over the past few weeks. They couldn’t prove it entirely, but I was pretty much the only suspect.”
Muto said he was suspended with pay, but Reuters reports a statement from a Fox News spokeswoman late on Wednesday said he would be terminated.