DemDaily: Fox Folds in Dominion Defamation Case

April 19, 2023

In a triumph against real "fake news," and for journalistic integrity, Fox News settled in the $1.6 billion case brought by Dominion Voting Systems against the cable news giant for its false claims that the electronic voting company helped rig the 2020 presidential election against former President Donald Trump.

The stunning last minute settlement of $787.5 million, one of the largest defamation cases in history, was announced just as opening statements were supposed to begin on the first day of the trial in Delaware Superior Court.

The settlement brings to a close a two year case that laid bare the remarkable inner workings of the country's most powerful conservative media voice.

"The truth matters. Lies have consequences. Money is accountaility, and we got that today from Fox...Today represents a ringing endorsement for truth and for democracy." - Dominion Attorney Justin Nelson

The lawsuit was filed in March 2021 by Dominion Voting Systems, which produces electronic voting machines and whose equipment was used to process votes in twenty-eight states, including the swing states of Georgia and Wisconsin.

Immediately following the 2020 election, Dominion became the target of unfounded conspiracy claims by far-right groups, Trump and various surrogates who alleged the company was part of an international cabal that stole the election and used its voting machines to transfer millions of votes that had been cast for Trump instead to Biden.

There was no evidence supporting these claims, which have been debunked by election technology experts, government and voting industry officials, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

The conspiracy theories were further discredited by hand recounts of the ballots cast in the 2020 presidential elections in Georgia and Wisconsin which found that Dominion voting machines had accurately tabulated votes, and that Biden had defeated Trump in both battleground states.

Dominion alleged Fox News Channel and its corporate parent Fox Corporation, including several of its prominent hosts and guests, knowingly and recklessly promoted the false allegations, causing irreparable damage to its reputation. The disinformation campaign against Dominion also led to their employees being stalked, harassed, and receiving death threats.

Dominion focused on allegations made between November 2020 and January 2021 by hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as regular guests and former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

Fox News claims that it was reporting news of what individuals were saying and was thus protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In pre-trial discovery, however, a trove of Fox News internal communications were released proving the hosts and top executives were aware the network was reporting lies but continued to doing so for financial reasons and viewership retention.

Indeed, in a January deposition, Fox Corporation founder and Chair Rupert Murdoch, who is also an officer of Fox News, acknowledged that several of the network's hosts "endorsed" the false election fraud narrative but he did not stop them -- despite believing “the election was not stolen.”

He further admitted that he chose not to keep election deniers such as Rudy Giuliani off the air and justified other decisions, liked allowing MyPillow founder and avid conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell to run ads on the network, as blatently financial. “It is not red or blue, it is green,” he said.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled in a March 2023 summary judgment that none of the statements Fox News made about Dominion were true and ordered the case to trial to determine if the network had acted with actual malice.

The trial was also expected to illuminate how the misinformation campaign influenced the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.

Murdoch, as well as Fox News stars Carlson and Hannity were among those expected to testify in the high-profile public trial, but are now spared from having to take the stand -- or having to offer a public apology.

In a statement Fox News said, "We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.” No apology was offered.

While the settlement resolves the dispute between Fox and Dominion, the network is facing another $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting machine company, over similar unfounded election fraud claims.

Both Dominion and Smartmatic have other pending defamation lawsuits that may reach trial, including cases against conservative media outlets One America News Network (OANN), Newsmax, former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, MyPillow's Lindell, Giuliani and Powell.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: VRBO, AP, The Guardian, PBS, Forbes, Reuters, NYT

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