The FBI has opened an investigation into a possible criminal hacking of Fox News computers, which may have led to the theft of documents and images that were later leaked to other media outlets, DailyMail.com can confirm.
In a May 25 letter obtained by DailyMail.com, a federal prosecutor in Tampa, Florida alerted Fox News to the criminal investigation of stolen material, including unbroadcast video of Tucker Carlson, who was fired in April.
The letter says the investigation involves unbroadcast footage of Carlson’s interview with Kanye West, published by Vice News, and a series of leaked videos published by Media Matters for America, a left-wing media watchdog.
The letter specifically notes that Vice News and Media Matters are not accused of any wrongdoing in the matter, directly or indirectly.
“Instead, the criminal behavior under investigation concerns the first unauthorized computer intrusions and interceptions of electronic communications by other subjects,” the letter states, adding that those subjects “are not employees of or affiliated with Fox.”
As part of its investigation, the FBI searched the home of media consultant Tim Burke and his wife Lynn Hurtak, a Tampa City Council member, earlier this month. Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the probe.
The FBI has reportedly opened an investigation into a possible criminal hacking into Fox News computers and alleged theft of unbroadcast footage of former host Tucker Carlson
As part of the investigation, the FBI searched the home of media consultant Tim Burke and his wife, Lynn Hurtak, a member of the Tampa City Council, seen above together earlier this month
U.S. Assistant Attorney Jay G. Trezevant of the Middle District of Florida signed the letter to Fox News, asking the network to preserve information and documents that could help the investigation.
The letter refers to the network as “a potential victim-witness to the criminal conduct” being investigated in the investigation.
In October, Vice published an article titled “See Disturbing Kanye Interview Snippets Tucker Carlson Didn’t Air” featuring multiple clips of the former Fox News host’s sit-down with the rapper.
The clips show West making a number of anti-Semitic statements, as well as strange stories about “fake kids” that he claimed were planted in his home.
The interview aired several weeks before West, who has legally changed his name to Ye, was banned from Twitter and widely denounced for a diatribe professing his “love” for Nazis and admiration for Adolf Hitler.
Separately, Media Matters has published a series of behind-the-scenes clips of Carlson following his firing earlier this month, under the title FOXLEAKS.
In one clip, Carlson joked about “postmenopausal fans” and made a comment about someone’s girlfriend being “hot.” In another, he calls a Dominion lawyer a “slimy little bastard.”
“Reporting newsworthy leaked material is a cornerstone of journalism,” Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, said in a statement to DailyMail.com on Friday.
In October, Vice published an article featuring multiple clips of former Fox News host Carlson’s sit-down with rapper Kanye West, seen above
“Over the years, Media Matters has reported on leaked material that exposed Fox’s misinformation, malice and misconduct,” added Carusone.
“We’ll just keep going with that. Like any respectable media outlet, we will not discuss the confidential provenance of our material,” he said.
Fox News and the Justice Department declined to comment. Vice did not immediately respond to requests for comment from DailyMail.com.
According to the Times, the FBI’s investigation led investigators to the Tampa home shared by media consultant Burke and his wife of the city councilman. Officers conducted a house search on May 8.
Burke, 44, has not been charged with wrongdoing or charged with criminal charges. He declined to comment to the Times and could not be reached for comment by DailyMail.com.
The search warrant for Burke’s home has not been made public.
Investigators typically must demonstrate probable cause to a judge in order to obtain a search warrant, but a search warrant authorization does not always result in criminal charges.
In an earlier statement, Hurtak, Burke’s wife, said the FBI’s search appeared to be solely related to her husband’s work as a journalist.
Burke is a leading media consultant and runs Burke Communications, a media and political consulting firm.
He has also worked as a journalist for news websites including Deadspin and the Daily Beast.
The website of Burke’s consulting firm has been offline since the FBI’s search of his home, the Times reported.
In a legal letter to Media Matters earlier this month, Fox News asked the group to stop publishing unbroadcast footage in the FOXLEAKS series.
Carlson and his wife Susan Andrews are seen shortly after his firing from Fox in late April
In a legal letter to Media Matters earlier this month, Fox News asked the group to stop publishing unaired footage in the FOXLEAKS series.
The letter does not address how the footage was leaked, but says the network “has not authorized its distribution or publication,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by DailyMail.com.
“This proprietary material was given to you without permission from FOX,” the letter added.
At the time, Media Matters publicly rejected Fox’s legal demand, insisting it had the right to cover newsworthy leaked material and said it would continue to do so.