Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that several Fox News hosts “endorsed” false claims of 2020 election fraud on air, according to the latest court filing by Dominion Voting Systems in its $1.6-billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News Network and Fox Corp.
In excerpts from a deposition included in Dominion’s filing on Monday, opposing Fox’s motion to have the lawsuit dismissed by summary judgment, Murdoch admitted that Fox News hosts including Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity to a greater or lesser extent endorsed, rather than just hosted, guests’ false narrative of a stolen election.
But Murdoch also asserted that “Fox” as an entity did not endorse the lie, and called the Fox News hosts “commentators” — wording that aligns with Fox’s contention that it engaged only in First Amendment-protected political coverage and opinions.
Dominion, however, argued in Monday’s filing that “Even if some of Fox’s hosts’ statements could qualify as ‘opinions,’ they are still actionable if — as here — they are based on false or undisclosed facts.”
Update: Donald Trump fired off a rant on Truth Social following these latest revelations, asking “Why is Rupert Murdoch throwing his anchors under the table, which also happens to be killing his case and infuriating his viewers, who will again be leaving in droves — they already are…” He continued with more false statements about 2020 election fraud.
In another recently released document, Dominion quoted internal Fox communications in which news hosts and top executives stated that they did not believe the conspiracy theories being spread by election deniers such as Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. Tucker Carlson actually stated that these claims were dangerous and a disservice to viewers.
However, the lawsuit contends that, post election, Fox continued to promote the conspiracy theories on air — despite a stream of information disproving those sent by Dominion to the network — because of a panic over declining ratings in the wake of Trump followers’ fury over Fox News having been the first to declare Joe Biden the winner of Arizona on election night.
Other revelations in Monday’s Dominion filing include that, on the evening before the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Rupert Murdoch told Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, “it’s been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like ‘the election is over and Joe Biden won.’” No such action was taken.
In his own deposition for the lawsuit, former Republican speaker of the House and Fox board member Paul Ryan said he had told Rupert Murdoch and Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch that the conspiracy theories were “baseless,” and that the network should “labor to dispel conspiracy theories if and when they pop up.”
Fox on Monday released a statement and some excerpts from its opposition filing in response to Dominion’s summary judgment motion.
“Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims,” reads the Fox statement. “Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear Fox for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment.”
Fox asserts that Dominion’s stance is that the press is, for example, legally liable for reporting newsworthy allegations made even by a current President, even if the press makes clear that the allegations are unproven and that many people contest them.
If Dominion’s view of the law were correct, “then it would have a defamation claim against virtually every news outlet in the country, as everyone [Fox’s italics] covered what the President and his lawyers and allies were alleging in the wake of the 2020 election, even though many made no secret of the fact that they doubted their claims,” Fox asserts.
“When Dominion is not mischaracterizing the law, it is mischaracterizing the facts” through selective use of statements and quotes, Fox added.
Fox has also legally disputed Dominion’s $1.6-billion damages claim, asserting that it “has no connection to Dominion’s financial value as a company or any supposed injury it suffered as a result of [Fox News Network’s] reporting.”