Less than 24 hours after Gawker introduced “The Fox Mole,” an anonymous columnist for the news and gossip site and current employee of Fox News Channel, Fox said it figured out associate producer Joe Muto was leaking inside information, and announced that he has been fired.
“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,” a Fox spokesman said Wednesday.
Muto was still blogging about Fox on Wednesday afternoon. In a post on Gawker, the mole 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.”
In response to that, a Fox rep told Mediaite, “We know who it is.”
Muto described being confronted by Fox in a later Gawker post: “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 first denied it, “which is why they didn’t fire me outright.”
A Fox rep told ABCNews.com that Muto is no longer being paid and does not work at the company as of today.
Muto’s first column which debuted Tuesday, promised to deliver privileged information from Fox News’ headquarters. Its first post included previously unseen video of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney discussing horseback riding with Fox News host Sean Hannity. The second post featured photos of the company’s bathrooms and a description of the “dreary” newsroom, where staffers are “constant worrying about an infestation from bedbugs, mice or some other vermin.”
In Tuesday’s column, Muto explained that after years working at the news network, “the final straw for me came last year.” The main point of contention: The Fox Nation, a news aggregator, described as “an unholy mashup of the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post and a Klan meeting.”
Muto knew the end was coming, but wanted to go down in flames: “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?”
Conde Nast dealt with its own mole last year, when a staffer at the magazine publisher’s headquarters launched a Twitter account dedicated to real and imagined musings from inside the building’s elevators. @Condeelevator amassed more than 80,000 followers in a matter of days, but the person behind it shut down the account before management found them, tweeting “Love my job. Better stop.”