'Fox Mole' Joe Muto on Guilty Plea, Book Deal and Fox News Coverage of Court Date

Joe Muto FOX Mole - P 2012
Courtesy of Gawker.com

Joe Muto FOX Mole - P 2012

The ex-"O'Reilly Factor" producer, who wrote anonymous Gawker dispatches about his employer, tells THR that he applauds the network's story on his misdemeanor charges.

A little over a year after Gawker introduced the "Fox Mole," a column written by an anonymous Fox News employee, Joe Muto found himself handcuffed in court accepting a plea deal. 

On Thursday, the ex-O'Reilly Factor producer plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges, was required give the $5,000 he was paid by the gossip site to charity and sentenced to community service, reported Fox News, the network that formerly employed him. 

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When contacted by The Hollywood Reporter after his court appearance, Muto replies that he didn't think that leaking a Fox News video of Republican nominee Mitt Romney chatting with anchor Sean Hannity off the air would lead to the serious legal headaches. 

"My asinine behavior of the past 13 months notwithstanding, I'm actually a relatively mild-mannered person and never would have embarked on this path if I suspected it was going to end with me walking into that courtroom handcuffed and belt-less," he explains by email. 

In his 2012 articles for Gawker -- which were styled as both a personal essay and a company tell-all -- he described the work environment at News Corp. headquarters, mused about why he was even working for the network in the first place and leaked the Romney video. 

After being found out as the "Fox Mole" and subsequently fired by the network, Muto received a book deal with Penguin imprint Dutton that was reported, by Gawker, to be a "low six-figure" deal. The book, titled An Atheist in the Foxhole, is billed as "a liberal's eight-year odyssey inside the heart of right-wing media." It's set to be released June 4. 

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Muto declined to comment about what he was paid to write the book but notes that "it was enough money to keep the lights on and to keep me supplied with a steady stream of Red Bull and Parliament Lights while I was writing the book -- but not so much that forfeiting $5,000 [in Gawker payment] doesn't sting." 

A Dutton Books spokesperson confirmed to THR that Muto's court date hasn't changed release plans for the title.

"I'm totally concentrating on selling the s--t out of this book for the time being," Muto states of his current work prospects. "Writing is something I love to do, and something I think I'm good at, and I'd be thrilled to be able to do it for a living. But one project at a time."

When asked about Fox News' story of his court date on Thursday, Muto had some kind words about his former employer and the reporter covering the story, Jana Winter

"Fair AND accurate," he tells THR. "Much more so than a lot of other news aggregator sites and blogs that got basic details wrong when reporting the story today. ... Shoe leather reporting is so basic, but so, so rare these days." Muto also retweeted the Fox News story about his guilty plea, adding: "Fair story! No book mention, though."

Editor's note: The author of this post previously worked at The Daily, a News Corp. iPad publication. 

Email: erik.hayden@thr.com   Twitter: @Erik_Hayden