NBC News says Fox News' Tucker Carlson 'dangerously and dishonestly targeted' its reporter

Bill Keveney

NBC News Thursday accused Fox News and one of its top hosts, Tucker Carlson, of smearing one of its reporters, resulting in a public clash of news divisions over coverage of President Donald Trump's supporters in the days leading up to the election.

On "Tucker Carlson Tonight" Wednesday, host Carlson criticized the journalistic practices of NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny, who investigates extremism and conspiracy theories on the internet.

In recent weeks, Zadrozny has reported on Facebook and YouTube banning QAnon, the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a large online network "poised to amplify (President Trump's) claims about a rigged election."

Carlson's Wednesday segment appeared to be a response to a Wednesday report in Revolver News, a right-wing news site that bills itself as "the new Drudge," that called Zadrozny "the woman in charge of doxxing and destroying Trump supporters." 

Fox News host Tucker Carlson

That led into an interview with Darren Beattie, whom Carlson said is one of the people that broke the Revolver story. Beattie, who was fired from his White House speechwriting job in 2018 after it was revealed that he had spoken at a conference frequently attended by white nationalists, accused Zadrozny of using "this term 'disinformation' as a pretext to go after Trump supporters and destroy their lives."

Carlson appeared supportive of Beattie's contentions. "Why would NBC be doing something like this?" he asked. 

NBC News pushed back against Fox News Thursday, issuing a statement that said "Carlson dangerously and dishonestly targeted" Zadrozny. 

"Brandy represents the best of investigative journalism and of NBC News. She is relentlessly well-researched and sophisticated in her understanding of disinformation and conspiracy theories on the Internet and within some social media communities," the statement said.

It continued: "She’s written definitive stories on extremism, QAnon, the profiteers behind rising anti-vaccination and COVID denial movements – among many other topics."

"Fox News has chosen to smear Brandy. In so doing they have shamefully encouraged harassment and worse. Fortunately, any effort to intimidate Brandy is doomed to failure," the statement concluded.

USA TODAY has reached out to Fox News for comment.

Hours after NBC News issued its statement, Zadrozny and colleague Ben Collins published a story about online efforts to push a false conspiracy theory against Hunter Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee's son, singling out Revolver News.

The NBC News report noted the president has supported the site by tweeting about it and also quoted news watchdog Newsguard as saying that Revolver "severely violates basic journalistic standards."

NBC News also noted the new story was reported before Beattie struck out at Zadrozny on Fox News Wednesday.