Fox News CEO Panicked That Election Fraud Fact-Checking Was ‘Bad For Business’
In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott was concerned that the network’s insistence on fact-checking bogus claims of election fraud was “bad for business.”
“This has to stop,” Scott wrote in a Dec. 2, 2020 email discussing anchor Eric Shawn’s efforts to fact-check fraud claims. The email was submitted as evidence in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News, and obtained by the progressive watchdog Media Matters for America. The emails, which were included in a slide deck presented during a March 21 hearing on the case, lay bare concerns from Scott that the network’s internal debate over how to cover Trump’s claims of fraud was affecting their bottom line.
“This is bad for business, and there [is] clearly a lack of understanding [about] what is happening in these shows,” Scott continued. “The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material.”
Before signing off Scott reiterated that she felt pushback was “bad for business.’
“These documents once again demonstrate Dominion’s continued reliance on cherry-picked quotes without context to generate headlines in order to distract from the facts of this case,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement. “The foundational right to a free press is at stake and we will continue to fiercely advocate for the First Amendment in protecting the role of news organizations to cover the news.”
The slide deck also included an unredacted version of a previously released email in which Scott wrote that she could not “keep defending these reporters who don’t understand our viewers and how to handle stories.” The outburst was prompted by correspondent Kirsten Fisher’s “dismissive tone” while “editorializing” at the top of Dana Perino’s show. In the newly released portion of the email, Scott indicated that Fox’s proprietary streaming service Fox Nation had lost 25,000 subscribers. “The audience feels like we crapped on and we have damaged their trust and belief in us,” she wrote, “We can fix this but we cannot smirk at our viewers any longer.”
Scott’s concern over the financial cost of providing honest coverage of the election was echoed by the anchors and staff of some of Fox’s biggest shows. In one email, the production team for host Tucker Carlson discussed an upcoming interview with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
“I know there are concerns about Lindell being a conspiracy theorist now,” one employee wrote, “but he has bailed us out loads of times when no one else would.” That bail-out is a reference to Lindell’s consistent advertising on Carlson’s show in the face of massive boycotts from major brands. “If no one is buying him, he loses money to be able to advertise with us. And then we lose our biggest advertiser,” another employee responded.
Lindell, who has also been named in the Dominion lawsuit, recently claimed his pillow company was going broke attempting to fend off the consequences of his conspiracy-mongering regarding the election.
Despite concerns about losing viewers and subscribers, the network was seemingly fully aware that there were falsehoods in their coverage of Dominion’s role in the election. Within days of the election, Fox News Information Specialist Leonard Balducci circulated materials from Dominion and the Associated Press debunking growing conspiracies about Dominion. Fox continued to platform claims made by lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani regardless.
The view into Fox’s internal dynamics provided by the Dominion’s suit has revealed just how much contempt the network has for both its viewers and journalism as a whole. The network, from its primetime anchors to its CEO, sees itself as not a rigorous reporting outfit, but a money-making venture centered on coddling its audience into sticking around and coughing up subscription revenue.
This post has been updated to include a statement from Fox News.