Written By: David Woodford
Fox and Dominion Voting Systems reached a $787 million settlement Tuesday in the voting machine company’s defamation lawsuit. Avoiding a trial in a case that exposed how a top-rated network chased viewers by pushing lies about the 2020 presidential election. Dominion originally asked for $1.6 billion, after arguing that Fox had damaged its reputation by pushing phony conspiracy theories about its equipment switching votes from former President Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden. Fox said the amount greatly exaggerated the value of the Colorado-based company.
The Delaware Superior Court found that the case should continue on to trial after Judge Eric Davis found that none of what was said on air about Dominion Voting Systems, was true. Dominion originally accused Fox of defaming them by repeatedly airing false allegations made by Trump allies that its machines and software they used had flipped votes to Biden. Many at the network doubted the claims and downplayed those who were making them. Records that were later released as part of the lawsuit, showed how Fox hosts and executives did not believe the claims made by Trump’s allies but went on to air them anyway. All in an attempt to win back viewers who were ditching the network after it called closely contested Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden on election night. During his deposition, Fox founder Rubert Murdoch testified that he believed the 2020 election was fair and had not been stolen from Trump. “Fox knew the truth,” Dominion argued.
In his March 31 summary judgment ruling, Judge Davis called out Fox for airing lies while continuing on about how the bogus election claims continued, 2 1/2 years after Trump lost his bid for reelection. Judge Davis would go on to say, “The statements at issue were dramatically different from the truth. In fact, although it cannot be attributed directly to Fox’s statements, it is noteworthy that some Americans still believe the election was rigged.” Fox argued that they were “obligated to report on the most newsworthy of stories,” a president claiming that he had been cheated out of re-election. Fox said Dominion argued that the network was obligated to suppress the allegations or announce them as false. “Freedom of speech and of the press would be illusory if the prevailing side in a public controversy could sue the press for giving a forum to the losing side,” Fox said in court papers.
Dominion’s lawyers argued that Fox made a calculated decision to repeatedly air the false claims to appeal to their viewers. They allowed guests to falsely claim that the company had rigged the election, flipped large numbers of votes to Biden through a secret algorithm, was owned by a company founded in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chavez, the late president, and bribed government officials. “What they did to get viewers back was start this new narrative that the election had been stolen and that Dominion was the thief,” said Dominion lawyer Rodney Smolla. A lot of the material showed a network scared of its audience after its election night declaration that Biden had won Arizona. The race call infuriated Trump and many viewers who supported him. One of Fox’s top news anchors, Bret Baier, expressed the audience’s anger and suggested rescinding the call, even awarding the state to Trump. “We don’t want to antagonize Trump further,” Murdoch said. Fox executives and anchors discussed how not to alienate the audience. Fox’s Tucker Carlson suggested a news reporter be fired for tweeting a fact check debunking the fraud claims.
It shouldn’t come to much of a surprise to anyone that this case happened. These cases were bound to happen and will only continue to happen down the road. Each network has its own target audience and each network pushes content that they believe will bode well with their readers. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more inappropriate behavior from these news networks. Company agendas over the truth are the big ones. One that will still continue to happen long after this settlement has settled.