Tucker Carlson speaks at the 2017 Business Insider Ignition: Future of Media conference in New York. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Media critic

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has settled a libel claim in a D.C small-claims court filed by a former reporter for the Daily Caller, a conservative website co-founded by Carlson. Evan Gahr, who covered various media and politics stories for the website, pursued Carlson in a series of civil complaints, some of which met with routine dismissals.

The claim that triggered the settlement was a convoluted allegation appropriate for these media-gazing times.

After the December 2016 termination of his contract with the Daily Caller — which paid the reporter $0.0035 per pageview — Gahr pummeled Carlson and related parties, including the Daily Caller, with complaints seeking return of personal property and payment for services rendered, as well as alleging breach of contract, etc. In a motion to dismiss Gahr’s claim, Carlson’s lawyer cited seven Gahr small-claims actions against the Fox News host and related parties.

As he pursued the lawsuits, Gahr circulated emails that he said he’d exchanged with Carlson back when he was working for the Daily Caller. In one of them, Gahr and Carlson were discussing the politics swirling around U.S. support for Israel. In that context, Carlson declared it “hilarious” that someone at a dinner a decade ago had called Barack Obama “schvartze,” a pejorative Yiddish term for a black person.

Following his termination, Gahr took to peddling tips about Carlson and managed to interest media website TheWrap.com in the “schvartze” angle. Wrap reporter Jon Levine indeed made an inquiry or two on the matter. When contacted by Levine, however, Carlson said the email was fabricated, according to Gahr. TheWrap.com did not run a story. On Wednesday, the Erik Wemple Blog contacted Levine, who confirmed that Carlson had called the email “fake.”

This circumstance — that Carlson had described as fabricated an email that Gahr had vouched for — caused profound reputational harm, said Gahr.

In hearings in June and September attended by the Erik Wemple Blog, Magistrate Judge Rahkel Bouchet expressed doubts about Gahr’s case. “You’re the plaintiff. You bear the burden,” she told Gahr at the June hearing. “I have to know if there’s merit to your cause of action.” There’s a whole stack of papers backing up Bouchet’s skepticism: Gahr had been a frequent litigant and drew a finding from a New York City civil court that he had used the small-claims court there for purposes of “oppression or harassment.”

There’s some irony in the court record. As a contract writer for the Daily Caller, Gahr focused on hassling media elites, precisely the mission statement that he turned on Carlson. In one spat with the New York Times, Gahr ripped Executive Editor Dean Baquet and reporter Ron Nixon – both of whom are African Americans — for failing to credit some of his reporting. “You don’t have a problem with [Nixon] just stealing my work? Did both of you take it as some kind of reparations for slavery?” Gahr wrote in an email. Baquet responded with perhaps the most justified F-bomb in the history of electronic communications.

Also in a Daily Caller piece, Gahr called an African American reporter for The Post an “affirmative action hire.”

In September 2016, Gahr published a headline saying that a Politico reporter didn’t address “Rumors He Pees Sitting Down,” a piece that speculates that the reporter relieves himself “like a woman.” From where did such rumors stem? Carlson, according to Gahr, who shared with the Erik Wemple Blog an email in which Carlson commented on the Politico reporter: “He sits down to piss, no question,” wrote Carlson.

As a matter of full disclosure, Gahr also delighted in needling the Erik Wemple Blog and our wife.

“I will say that he is the kind of person that makes people miserable,” Baquet told the Erik Wemple Blog. “In some cases…you admire a reporter who calls a lot and is a pain [and] really drives things. But that’s not Evan. Evan is obnoxious.”

After the September hearing in the case, Gahr and Bernard Dennis, an attorney for Carlson, jousted over how a settlement might look. When he was asked how much money he’d accept, Gahr threw out $3,000, though he didn’t want to agree to a hush provision. “I won’t sign anything with a confidentiality agreement,” said Gahr. Such an insistence, he argued, would be “odd” for a journalist to insist upon.

Asked on Wednesday whether Carlson denies the authenticity of the emails that Gahr had circulated about “schvartze” and other matters, Fox News has not responded to the Erik Wemple Blog. It bears noting that at the time of Gahr’s sacking, Carlson had already joined the prime-time lineup at Fox News and pledged to relinquish managerial duties at the Daily Caller.

After Thursday’s session, Gahr said of the settlement, “Yeah, I got money,” adding that merely saying as much left Carlson an opening to sue for the return of that money. “Tucker’s not going to shut me up. He’s a bully and a poseur,” said Gahr. The ceiling for damages at the D.C. small-claims court is $10,000.

Reached by phone, Carlson declined to comment about Gahr. He was, however, more comfortable talking about the Erik Wemple Blog: “Oh, I’m always so glad to hear your voice,” said Carlson, asking to go off-record. After we refused, he said, “That’s totally fine. I would love to talk to you. I have a lot of thoughts about you and the shoddy brand of journalism that you practice, which is really political consulting … You’re typing away like a monkey. I love it.”

Update: Carlson has released a comment: