Well, it wasn’t long, but Gawker’s Fox News Mole, Joe Muto, was nabbed. Meanwhile, sometime after Fox News chief Roger Ailes joked to the New York Times‘ David Carr about the incident (“‘I am the Fox Mole,’ he told me, then quickly added. ‘Who cares? We have nothing to hide.’”) Roger Ailes and Fox News demonstrated just how much they care. By sending to Gawker a vague legal threat with the clear aim of scaring the blog posts back into Muto’s id, where they will never emerge from again.
Naturally, Gawker published that legal threat (alongside an old picture of Bill O’Reilly with topless women, of course). Entertaining as it is, we’ve taken the liberty of annotating the best parts of Fox’s legal letter to Gawker, right here:
1. Yeah, right. Adorable! But basically a sign that says—to Gawker, at least—”DON’T FORGET TO PUBLISH.” These notices hold absolutely no legal bearing, and in the event the law firm would attempt to prove malice on the part of the publisher of said legal threat letter (Gawker), all Gawker has to prove is that the letter is newsworthy. If that. Judging by the six-digit counts on each of Gawker’s Fox Mole posts, one could reasonably assert that this letter is, in fact, newsworthy.
2. Ronald M. Green, Litigious Legal Machine. If Ronald M. Green sounds familiar to followers of Fox’s media troubles—or the troubles of Powerful Men in Media—he is! Green’s page for the firm lists (boasts?) of his association to Bill O’Reilly as legal representation. What it doesn’t note: Some of the cases Green has worked on for O’Reilly, including but not limited to the sexual harassment claim a producer filed against O’Reilly, which was settled out of court before the world got to hear the evidence in the case. He also represented Cablevision/MSG chairman James L. Dolan and The Garden in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders after she claiming she had been sexually harassed. A jury found in her favor to the tune of $11.5M, $3M of which came out of Dolan’s pockets. Also noted on Green’s bio page from his firm? A position he wrote for The New York Law Journal entitled “The Employer’s ‘Sue First’ Strategy: In high stakes litigation, ‘preemptive strike’ has produced results.” If you thought Fox News was calling up My Cousin Vinny from the bullpen, think again: Green is their “Lights Out” guy, and he will no doubt take this thing to some inevitable conclusion. Don’t place your bets yet, though: Handicapping odds is contingent upon on what further action he has planned, if any. Then we’ll open the pool.
3. Covered Bases. The funny thing about legal threats is how many copies you end up getting. New York City’s bike messengers owe the litigious lawyers of their fair city a debt of gratitude for giving them, like, half their business.
4 and 5. Scare Quotes. In legal paperwork, scare quotes are often used to precede the paraphrasing of a term throughout the rest of the brief; this isn’t that. This is just a funny use of scare quotes.
6. ‘Likely.’ As in, “we haven’t yet figured out exactly what about this is illegal, but it’s surely something” or “probably, so you should be scared.” Pretty standard.
7. ‘Should.’ As in, “this isn’t actually a cease and desist, though we’re going to vaguely allude to some sense of obligation, whether or not there’s a law against it.” Pretty standard.
8. Niceties. These are always enjoyable to read; they always act as amusingly macabre punctuation points, like someone telling you to watch your shirt for blood immediately after having stabbed you in the gut.
In other words, get out the popcorn: This has nowhere to go but up.
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