Politics

Fox News ‘mole’ who leaked off-air footage of Mitt Romney says he’s being charged with grand larceny

A former Fox News Channel associate producer who provided off-air footage of Mitt Romney to Gawker said Wednesday he is being charged with grand larceny.

Joe Muto, who wrote anonymously for Gawker as “The Fox Mole,” tweeted that he was served a search warrant at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday “by a very polite crew from the DA’s office” that “took my iPhone, laptop, some old notebooks.” The network threatened legal action two weeks ago.

Forbes magazine reported earlier this month that Gawker paid Muto $5,000 for his contributions. In New York, where Fox News is headquartered, the threshold for a grand larceny charge is $1,000.

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Muto wrote only two posts for Gawker before Fox News identified him as the mole; he wrote two more after being fired. A self-described “left-winger,” Muto wrote that he had planned to work briefly at the network “then eventually hop to a new job that didn’t make me cringe every morning when I looked in the mirror.”

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Eight years later, Muto said, he was finally determined to leave, and he decided to share inside information about Fox News on his way out.

Muto tweeted that the network is “pretty worked up over a clip of Romney talking about his horses,” which was Muto’s most noteworthy dispatch. The clip showed Romney chatting with Sean Hannity before a February interview in Las Vegas. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told Hannity that his wife, Ann, needed a break from their grueling campaign schedule to ride the couple’s horses.

“She has Austrian Warmbloods, which are — yeah, it’s a dressage horse, it’s a kind of horse for the sport that she’s in,” Romney said to Hannity. “Me, I have a Missouri Fox Trotter. So mine is like a quarter horse, but just a much better gait. It moves very fast, and doesn’t tire, and it’s easy to ride, meaning it’s not boom, boom, boom. It’s just smooth, very smooth.”

In his first post for Gawker on April 10, Muto blasted Romney for the comments.

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“Remember this video next time Romney attacks Obama for golfing,” Muto wrote. “The inherent elitism and snootiness of golf is NOTHING compared to competitive horseback riding. And I think Mitt loses points with the GOP base for his correct pronunciation of dressage. To GOP-voter ears it sounds not only gay, but even worse, French.”

Later in the video, Romney revealed a frugal side, telling Hannity he spent the previous night in an inexpensive hotel to conserve campaign funds.

“You can spend your money on ads or you can spend it on hotel rooms,” Romney said. “I’d rather spend it on ads.”

Gawker has removed the video from its website, but the clip remains posted on YouTube .

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.