Abby Grossberg didn’t know what she was getting into when she took a job at Fox News in 2019. As a mid-level producer at ABC News, she had voted twice for Barack Obama and for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but didn’t consider herself particularly political. She was bored in her role and felt stuck behind a desk. So when a position opened up at Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, she jumped at the chance.
As Bartiromo’s main producer, she was responsible for booking guests and putting on the show. Grossberg got to travel with the Fox anchor, meet newsmakers, and even sit in on phone calls with President Donald Trump. In 2022, she moved to Tucker Carlson Tonight, where she became head of booking.
But over the last six weeks, Grossberg has filed two lawsuits against her former employer. In one suit, filed in Delaware, she alleges that Fox News lawyers bullied her into giving false and misleading testimony in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against Fox, which the network recently settled for $787.5 million. According to Grossberg, the lawyers for the company coached her to “shade” her deposition in the Dominion lawsuit and coerced her to implicate herself and Bartiromo rather than Fox News executives. On May 9, Grossberg dropped that lawsuit, although her lawyer has said she intends to refile it in a different jurisdiction. In another lawsuit, filed in New York, Grossberg alleges that she was unfairly denied a promotion at Sunday Morning Futures, and that the work environment at Tucker Carlson Tonight was so hostile to women that it triggered a nervous breakdown. She’s now suing for economic, punitive, and emotional distress damages.
Grossberg was fired from Fox on March 24. According to her suit, the company accused her of “acting contrary to express instructions” by disclosing information about the Dominion case in her lawsuit against Fox. Fox says the termination was related to her performance. “FOX News engaged an independent outside counsel to immediately investigate the concerns raised by Ms. Grossberg, which were made following a critical performance review,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement to TIME. “We will continue to vigorously defend Fox against her unmeritorious legal claims which are riddled with false allegations against the network and our employees.”
Carlson’s attorney did not reply to a request for comment.
In an exclusive interview with TIME, Grossberg offered her perspective about the charges at the core of both of these lawsuits: that Fox’s relentless pursuit of ratings, combined with alleged gender discrimination at the company, created an environment where falsehoods and conspiracy theories thrived unchecked. In particular, she says, the culture of misogyny made women—like herself and Bartiromo—reliant on ratings, even when it meant promoting baseless lies on the air.
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On her first day at Tucker Carlson Tonight, Grossberg says, she walked into the office to find it plastered with photos of Nancy Pelosi in a bikini. Soon, she says, she noticed that one of the senior producers had a mirror on his desk with the C-word written on it. After she objected to Carlson doing an interview with the misogynistic TikTok star Andrew Tate, “there was a feeling of, you know, she’s the office mom, but this office mom is not as fun as the last one,” Grossberg recalls. “And every time I spoke out, I was excluded from meetings, further marginalized, berated in front of my team.”
While she never met Carlson in person—he worked mostly remotely—Grossberg says that he would often demand staff find support for segments he wanted to air, whether or not they were true. “Tucker sent marching orders every morning of what he wanted, and what the angles were going to be. And many of them were conspiracy theories,” Grossberg says. “It was always like: Here’s my point of view; this is what I want to say tonight. Find somebody who will say that.”
Grossberg says there was a rotating list of people who were “banned” from Fox, forbidden from appearing on the air. The list often changed, but at various times it included Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene and former Trump advisers Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro and Jenna Ellis, according to Grossberg. “Kari Lake was on and off the banned list,” Grossberg says of the pro-Trump Arizona gubernatorial candidate in 2022. “Trump was banned” for a while, she says. Only Carlson, Grossberg says, was allowed to violate these bans.
Carlson had researchers who were combing the right-wing fever swamps to find incendiary stories, Grossberg alleges. “They would raise things and be like, ‘We just can’t find this. We can’t connect these dots.’ And then it would be on the air anyway,” she says. “They looked at the ratings minute by minute.”
Carlson got away with things because he was a ratings sensation. Bartiromo was different. Soon after arriving at Fox, Grossberg says, she sensed her boss had a target on her back. “Very quickly on that Sunday show, I noticed the misogyny, how she was treated by other people at Fox,” Grossberg recalls. She says she was once berated by a Fox senior producer for being too candid with Bartiromo. “He said, ‘She’s menopausal. She’s crazy. We don’t tell her things. We limit information to her,'” Grossberg recalls. “It was very upsetting.”
This environment made Bartiromo, who still works at Fox, desperate for anything that could shore up her audience numbers, Grossberg says. She believes the anchor’s relationship with President Trump insulated Bartiromo. “If they were marginalizing her, she could always say, ‘I can get the President of the United States on the phone,'” Grossberg recalls. “She had that power over Fox, and it protected her.”
When Trump lost the election, Bartiromo “was desperate” to hold onto that job insurance, Grossberg says. Even when Trump officials told Bartiromo that Biden won the election, “she didn’t want to believe them,” she says. Bartiromo’s show became, as Grossberg puts it in her suit, the “tip of the spear in delivering the Big Lie.” Bartiromo gave Trump extended airtime before the 2020 election to lay the groundwork for election conspiracy theories, then hosted him for an extensive post-election interview in which he sprayed falsehoods about the election outcome. She interviewed Trump attorney Sidney Powell several times, giving Powell a platform to spread baseless lies about “voting irregularities” and “kickbacks” to government officials without meaningfully pushing back.
Fox News’s famously conservative bent was actually more of “a hand-in-glove relationship with the Republican Party,” according to Grossberg. She says that Bartiromo would call her GOP contacts and ask what they’d like her to talk about on the air. According to texts obtained by CNN, Bartiromo went as far as to brief Trump’s aides on exactly what she planned to ask the President in his first sit-down interview after the 2020 election.
“I have interviewed four American presidents and several international heads of state during my distinguished career and have had rapports with leading figures across the world,” Bartiromo said through a spokesperson. “These allegations are absurd and patently false.” Fox News also sent TIME a statement in support of Bartiromo, with a spokesperson adding that “she does not need to rely on any one person or organization as her contacts reach far and wide.”
Grossberg’s job often included recording Bartiromo’s calls with potential guests. She alleges in her lawsuit that in one such call, in Dec. 2020, Grossberg asked a senior Trump adviser whether the Administration had investigated alleged voter fraud in Georgia. “The Trump adviser tellingly responded that there were in fact no issues with those machines,” Grossberg alleges in her suit. Instead, she alleges the adviser said, the purpose of the call with Bartiromo was to “highlight the importance of the impending Jan. 6 date as the true ‘backstop’ for determining the validity of the election.”
Grossberg says that this moment, and the insurrection that followed, was her “wake-up call.” She concluded that Trump and his allies were using Fox News to promote baseless claims about election fraud that they knew were false, and that those claims could lead to real political violence. “Seeing what we covered and then seeing the violence and thinking, ‘Oh, you have a responsibility here with what we’re doing. This isn’t just about ratings and entertainment,” she says. “This is not just a business. People consume this, they take it to heart, and they act on it.” Grossberg is now in talks to provide some of those transcripts to the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed to investigate Trump’s attempts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power.
In 2022, Grossberg was deposed as part of Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox. “During one of those meetings, a Fox Business executive said, ‘You’re responsible for the whole Dominion debacle,'” she says. “That was the first time I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what’s going on here?'” She says she came to realize that Fox lawyers had been coercing her testimony to “shade” it in a way that was favorable to the company, suggesting that Bartiromo and Grossberg—not Fox News executives—were responsible for the false statements made against Dominion.
“The assertion that Ms. Grossberg was coached or intimidated into being dishonest during her Dominion deposition is patently false,” a Fox spokesperson told TIME in a statement.
Taken together, Grossberg’s two lawsuits paint a portrait of a network so devoted to ratings that it pushed conspiracy theories to an audience desperate to believe them. She’s the first to admit that she once believed what Bartiromo and Carlson said. “I wanted [Trump] to win too. It was weird. It’s like another version of myself that I can’t connect to,” she says. “But I see how that power and seduction influences people.”
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