After a week of intrigue, I came face to face—well, via satellite at least—with the Fox News mole.
Joe Muto was a $60,000-a-year associate producer for Bill O’Reilly when he started posting anonymously at Gawker. Within about 24 hours, Fox caught him, fired him and is threatening to sue him.
Why would he do such a thing?
In an interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources, I began by calling Muto a “weasel” and a “traitor”—throwing his own words back at him—and asked him why he blew up his career.
He talked about breaking the “code of omerta,” would not confirm being paid $5,000 by Gawker—but sure didn’t deny it—and denied breaking the law. “I think their legal accusations are completely baseless, and they’re trying to intimidate me into silence because I’m revealing unflattering information about the inner workings of the company,” he told me.
I told Muto he hadn’t leaked much of value—complaints about the dreary newsroom and racist commenters on the Fox Nation website, along with off-air footage of Sean Hannity bantering with Mitt Romney—and asked what so motivated him to engage in what he called a “primal scream.” Muto had nothing to add to his bill of particulars against Roger Ailes’ news division, saying he would put out more at some unspecified time in the future. Why not do it before a national television audience?
He did say he tried to leave Fox many times by sending out resumes but was “blackballed within the industry” and viewed as a “nut” because of his affiliation. Muto apologized if he had hurt his ex-colleagues, but hastened to add that “I am not a sociopath.”
Oh, and Muto says he realizes he’s washed up in cable news, but couldn’t stay in the building “one day longer without, you know, exploding.”
Journalists love sources who blow the whistle. Buf if you’re going to betray your bosses, seems to me that it ought to be an act of conscience--some troubling evidence you feel compelled to share with the world. So far, Muto hasn’t offered such a reason.
You can decide for yourself whether he’s a whistleblower or a weasel.