LOS ANGELES, April 11 (Reuters) - Fox News on Wednesday said it was firing an employee who had anonymously posted videos and comments about behind-the-scenes workdays at the television network, leading media website Gawker to dub him the “mole.”
Joe Muto, who had worked as an associate producer on commentator Bill O‘Reilly’s show at Fox, began his postings on social media websites on Tuesday, and Gawker then began publishing “installments” from the “mole” on its website.
After being suspended, Muto posted a picture of himself late on Wednesday afternoon inside Gawker’s office saying “It’s Me, Joe: The Fox Mole.”
“They nailed me,” Muto wrote on the Gawker website. “In the end, it was the digital trail that gave me away. ... They couldn’t prove it entirely, but I was pretty much the only suspect.”
While Muto’s post said he had been suspended with pay, a statement from a Fox News spokeswoman late on Wednesday said he would be terminated.
“Joe Muto is fired effective April 12 (Thursday),” the statement said. “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.”
The posts became widely discussed on social media and in newsrooms across the United States because they purported to give a glimpse inside the news channel known for conservative personalities such as O‘Reilly and Sean Hannity.
Muto’s posts included a video of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s off-air banter in an interview with Hannity in which the politician was caught on camera using the word “dressage” about horses.
“I think Mitt loses points with the GOP base for his correct pronunciation of dressage,” Muto posted.
Another post railed about a gap in the bathroom stalls, with photo included, at Fox headquarters in New York.
On Wednesday afternoon, Fox and Muto engaged in an unusual game of cat and mouse. A representative told website Mediaite.com that the TV network had identified the person and was exploring its legal options, but Muto taunted Fox with another post saying, “I Am the Fox Mole, And I‘m Still Here.”
That changed late on Wednesday, Muto wrote, when he was ushered into a Fox attorney’s office and “suspended indefinitely ... with pay, oddly enough.” That posting was made before Fox confirmed that Muto would be fired.
Fox News is a unit of media giant News Corp.