Fox News Settles Dominion Case, Avoiding Public Airing of Network’s Dirty Laundry
Fox News has settled with Dominion Voting Systems, which sued the network for defamation after it repeatedly aired false claims about the voting-machine company rigging the 2020 presidential election. The settlement is a landmark moment in political media, with the primary news source for millions of Americans admitting it lied about the outcome of a presidential election.
Fox paid $787.5 million to skirt a public reckoning for its lies. The settlement means the network will avoid having to trot its highest-profile figures — from Rupert Murdoch to Tucker Carlson and beyond — in front of a jury to testify under oath about their coverage of the 2020 election, which the court has already determined was rife with false claims. The full terms of the settlement have not been made public, but the network will not have to apologize or even acknowledge on air that it was a font of misinformation during a crisis in democracy.
Dominion brought the suit in March 2021, seeking $1.6 billion in damages and arguing it suffered financial harm from Fox pushing a narrative that the company helped rig the election in favor of President Biden, despite its executives and on-air personalities knowing there was no evidence to support the claims. The trial, which was scheduled after Fox’s attempts to get the case dismissed were swatted down, had been scheduled to commence Monday.
Signs of a potential settlement agreement seemed to be underway on Sunday, with Judge Eric Davis announcing that he was moving the start of the trial from Monday to Tuesday without explanation. The Wall Street Journal reported that the delay was due to Fox pushing to settle the case out of court. Judge Davis announced the settlement on Tuesday after a long delay following the jury’s selection that morning. “Parties have resolved their case,” he said as media waited for the parties to deliver their opening statements.
“We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” Fox said in a statement. “This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
Fox had already lost a series of pretrial rulings in the lead-up to the now-nixed trial, including last month when the court denied the networks’ bid to have the suit thrown out. Judge Davis sanctioned Fox during a pre-trial hearing last week after Dominion’s lawyers accused Fox of withholding evidence, and on Tuesday announced that he had appointed a special master to investigate Fox’s legal team.
Portions of the withheld evidence in question, audio recordings former Fox producer Abby Grossberg made after the 2020 election, were aired last week by MSNBC. They featured a Trump official admitting to Fox that the Dominion voting machines in Georgia showed no “physical issues,” as well as Rudy Giuliani telling Fox host Maria Bartiromo that he was having trouble substantiating claims of election fraud.
The recordings were only the latest in a damning series of revelations about how Fox covered the aftermath of the election. Internal network communications made public during the litigation demonstrated that network executives and prominent on-air hosts knew there was no real evidence of fraud, but pushed the idea that there was because of concerns about losing their Trump-supporting audience. Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham texted about there was no proof of fraud. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott emailed about concerns that fact-checking election fraud claims was “bad for business.” Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition that Fox hosts “endorsed” false claims of fraud.
The network also appeared fully aware that there were falsehoods in their coverage of Dominion’s role in the election, as says after the election Fox News information specialist Leonard Balducci circulated materials from Dominion and the Associated Press debunking growing conspiracies about the company. Fox continued to platform unfounded claims by Giuliani and fellow Trump lawyer Sidney Powell anyway.
Trump argued ahead of the settlement that the best way for Fox to defang Dominion’s case was to push even more false claims of fraud. “IF FOX WOULD FINALLY ADMIT THAT THERE WAS LARGE SCALE CHEATING & IRREGULARITIES IN THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, WHICH WOULD BE A GOOD THING FOR THEM, & FOR AMERICA, THE CASE AGAINST THEM, WHICH SHOULD NOT HAVE EXISTED AT ALL, WOULD BE GREATLY WEAKENED,” the former president wrote Monday on Truth Social.
Fox did the opposite, acknowledging in Tuesday’s historic settlement that it lied to millions of Americans about the 2020 election. It agreed to pay Dominion nearly $800 million dollars in damages and, according to Dominion lawyer Stephen Shackelford, the settlement could still include other accountability measures. “Money is accountability, and we got that today from Fox,” he said. “But we’re not done yet, we’ve got some other people who have some accountability coming toward them.”
Fox is also battling a similar lawsuit from election technology company Smartmatic, which filed a $2.7 billion defamation suit against the network a month before Dominion filed theirs. “Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign,” Smartmatic said in a statement on Tuesday. “Smartmatic will expose the rest.”
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