Their abrupt departures from CNN and Fox News took the media world by surprise. Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson, who were both fired from high-paying jobs within minutes of one other on Monday, apparently had one person on quick dial: attorney Bryan Freedman.
based in Los Angeles Mr. Freedman, dubbed a “pit bull” by the US media, is recognized as a highly aggressive legal advocate with a celebrity client list.
A-list celebrities such as actors Robert Downey Jr., Vin Diesel, and Kate Beckinsale, as well as musicians Mariah Carey and Alanis Morissette, have all looked to him for guidance.
Mr. Freedman, a trial lawyer since 1991, has previously worked on behalf of disgruntled news anchors.
He represented sacked CNN journalist Chris Cuomo and former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who was fired by NBC News after defending “blackface” costumes on her show.
While he has not publicly acknowledged any contracts with Lemon or Carlson, his hire has been reported by the New York Times, the New York Post, and another of Mr Freedman’s clients, journalist Yashar Ali.
Mr. Freedman has been contacted by the BBC for comment. Lemon and Carlson have not filed a lawsuit.
So what do we know about one of Hollywood’s most revered – and feared – lawyers?
Focus on entertainment
Mr. Freedman completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, before enrolling in law school at the McGeorge School of Law, which is part of the University of the Pacific in Sacramento. In 1991, he passed the bar exam.
Mr. Freedman stated at a 2021 alumni event that he first became interested in law to “do something powerful” to benefit clients.
He immediately opted to concentrate on entertainment law, which he discovered 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.
Mr Freedman and up to eight others were accused of assault and sexual violence in a $600,000 suit, according to a 1986 item in the UC, Berkeley student newspaper, the Daily Californian, seen by BBC News.
According to the lawsuit, the encounter “included, but was not limited to, forcibly touching, kissing, embracing, and molesting” the alleged victim against her will following a party in October 1985.
According to the story, Mr. Freedman made a denial and stated that he resigned from a position with the Associated Students of the University of California to boost his prospects of 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?
Mr. Freedman’s employment by Carlson and Lemon, if verified, may be a portent of things to come for the troubled hosts. The New York Times has already stated that Lemon’s retention of Mr Freedman was a “clear sign of acrimony” over his departure.
The Daily Beast stated earlier this week that Carlson and Lemon’s alleged retention of Mr Freedman meant that media observers “can expect protracted and ugly negotiations for golden parachutes” – financial accords that pay out even after a person leaves their employment.
Mr. Freedman is also now defending former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who is suing his former employers for $125 million.
He alleges CNN wrongly fired him in 2021 after allegations that he advised his brother, then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, on how to handle a sexual harassment case.
Mr. Freedman’s legal strategy for Lemon and Carlson remains unknown.
Mr Carlson lashed out at “liars trying to silence” honest people in his first public comments since leaving Fox News on Wednesday, while he did not expressly address his departure or speak about his future intentions.
Mr Lemon, for his part, said he was “stunned” by his abrupt departure, which he said happened without the opportunity to talk with executives – a statement CNN refuted.