Their sudden departures from CNN and Fox News stunned the media world. As they reeled from their abrupt firings, Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson, both ousted from their high-paying roles within minutes of each other on Monday, reportedly had one man on speed dial: attorney Bryan Freedman.
Los Angeles-based Mr Freedman – sometimes described by US media as a “pit bull” – is known as a highly aggressive legal advocate with a star-studded client list.
A-list celebrities ranging from actors Robert Downey Jr, Vin Diesel and Kate Beckinsale, to musicians Mariah Carey and Alanis Morissette have all turned to him.
Mr Freedman, a trial lawyer since 1991, also has experience working on behalf of news anchors who have lost their jobs.
The BBC has reached out to Mr Freedman for comment. Lemon and Carlson have not announced legal action.
So what do we know about one of Hollywood’s most revered – and feared – lawyers?
Focus on entertainment
Mr Freedman first studied at the University of California – Berkeley before attending law school at the McGeorge School of Law, part of the University of the Pacific in Sacramento. He passed the bar exam in 1991.
At a 2021 alumni event, Mr Freedman said that he initially became interested in law to “do something that was powerful” to help clients.
He soon decided to focus on entertainment law, a specialty he found required an aggressive approach.
“What I realised is that if I wanted to be an entertainment lawyer, I had to sue entertainers. No one would hire you until you built a reputation,” he said.
“So I started to focus on going after entertainers, and defeating established entertainment litigators and winning cases or winning settlements in things that were high profile so that someone would write something about it.”
He set up his current firm, Freedman and Taitelman, in 1997 alongside Michael Taitelman, who he first met during the early days of their stint at UC, Berkeley.
Mr Freedman has allegedly also faced legal issues of his own. He and two other university students were accused of sexual assault in the 1980s, Insider reported. According to Insider, he agreed to pay $40,000 (£32,000) as part of a larger settlement before the case went to court, but did not admit liability, the website claimed. Mr Freedman has not publicly commented on the case and did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit quoted by the newspaper claimed the incident “included, but was not limited to forcibly touching, kissing, embracing and molesting” the alleged victim against her will after a party in October 1985.
The article notes that Mr Freedman issued a denial and said he resigned from a position from the Associated Students of the University of California in order to improve his chances at attending a graduate law school.
In its list of prominent entertainment “power lawyers”, motion picture bible the Hollywood Reporter described Mr Freedman as “an expert in crisis litigation, the type that’s heavy in late night phone calls and corporate drama”.
He has found considerable success in this role. In 2020, for example, he successfully managed a settlement for actress Gabrielle Union after she alleged harassment and discrimination on the set of America’s Got Talent, which she judged for one season in 2019.
Broadcaster NBC later said it had reached an “amicable resolution” with Union, noting the concerns she raised. The terms of the agreement were not publicly disclosed.
Mr Freedman represented Chris Harrison, the host of the popular reality TV series The Bachelor, who stepped down after defending a contestant accused of racism, reportedly negotiating a $10m payout.
Mr Freedman also defended TV host Megyn Kelly after she was let go from NBC in 2018 for questioning why blackface is racist.
On an episode of her show, Kelly asked an all-white panel “what is racist?” and said that, when she was young, blackface “was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character”.
Kelly was let go after a public furore, and Mr Freedman argued that she should have received the remainder of her $69m contract. She reportedly received $30m to cover that sum in early 2019.
‘Ugly’ battles ahead?
If confirmed, Mr Freedman’s hiring by Carlson and Lemon could be a sign of what is to come for the embattled anchors. Already, the New York Times has said Lemon’s retention of Mr Freedman was a “clear sign of acrimony” about his exit.
Another US media outlet, the Daily Beast, said earlier this week that Carlson and Lemon’s reported retention of Mr Freedman means that media watchers “can expect protracted and ugly negotiations for golden parachutes” – financial deals that pay out even after a person has left their job.
Mr Freedman is also currently representing former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who is demanding $125m from his former employers.
It is unclear what legal approach Mr Freedman would take for Lemon and Carlson.
In his first public comments after his departure from Fox News on Wednesday, Carlson lashed out at “liars trying to silence” honest people, although he did not specifically address his departure or speak about his future plans.
Lemon, for his part, has said he was “stunned” at his sudden exit which he said came without the option to speak with bosses – a charge CNN denied.
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