In a sudden move, Fox News has agreed to pay $787.5 million on Tuesday to settle a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems. The lawsuit stemmed from the network’s dissemination of false information about the 2020 election. This resolution successfully avoids a protracted and potentially embarrassing trial, which was just about to begin with a full courtroom audience anticipating opening statements.
This article discusses the recent settlement in a high-profile defamation case, which is one of the largest ever recorded. The case has attracted widespread attention due to the remarkable disclosures that have exposed the inner workings of one of the most powerful voices in conservative news.
As part of the settlement, Fox News was forced to make a difficult admission and acknowledge that certain claims it made about Dominion were false. The financial cost of the settlement was significant, but perhaps more importantly, the case highlights the importance of truth and the consequences of spreading lies. According to Justin Nelson, a lawyer for Dominion, “The truth matters. Lies have consequences.” This case serves as a reminder that the pursuit of truth and the responsible dissemination of information are crucial components of a healthy society.
In a surprising turn of events, an agreement reached at the eleventh hour stunned the entire courtroom in Wilmington where the case was being heard. Gasps filled the room when Judge Eric M. Davis announced that the two parties had resolved the matter shortly before 4 p.m, just as lawyers for both sides were preparing to address the jury for the first time, microphones already clipped to their jacket lapels.
The settlement has saved Fox from a protracted trial that would have put many of the company’s most high-profile figures, including media mogul Rupert Murdoch and hosts like Tucker Carlson and Maria Bartiromo, on the stand. The case threatened to expose a trove of damaging information about how the network reported a story of fraud and interference in the 2020 presidential election, which many of its executives and on-screen personalities did not believe. Notably, the network was not required to apologize, a concession that Dominion lawyers had been seeking, according to those involved in the case.
The lawsuit against Fox was filed by Dominion two years ago, following the airing of false stories claiming that Dominion’s voting machines were vulnerable to hacking and had flipped votes from President Donald J. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr. Dominion has expressed a sense of vindication about the substantial financial cost that Fox will have to bear as part of the settlement. Although Dominion had sought damages of $1.6 billion, nearly double the settlement amount, the company will avoid years of appeals that could have reduced or eliminated any potential payout from a trial.
Two years ago, Dominion and election officials were engulfed in a torrent of lies that propagated conspiracy theories and caused significant harm to both the company and the country. However, today’s settlement of $787.5 million marks a moment of vindication and accountability,” stated Mr. Nelson. This landmark case raised hopes for a much-needed post-Trump-era judgment, as few of the former president’s allies have been held responsible for their roles in spreading falsehoods that undermined confidence in the democratic process and cast doubt on Mr. Biden’s victory. Unfortunately, polls show that many Republicans still question the legitimacy of the 2020 election. The settlement amount, experts claim, is unprecedented and likely one of the largest in defamation case history. According to Professor RonNell Andersen Jones, this was undeniably the most potent defamation case against a major media company, made even more unusual by the company’s decision to settle after divulging damaging internal information. After months of little communication, the deal was finalized at the last minute, and Dominion’s revelations about Fox’s employees’ private doubts on-air voter fraud claims were truly extraordinary.
Ms. Andersen Jones stated that settling before the public release of this trove of evidence would have been in Fox’s best interest. However, Dominion’s decision to wait until the eve of trial provided an extra layer of accountability that they were seeking. It is rare for defamation suits to go to trial, and Dominion’s case against Fox was even more uncommon due to the extensive evidence they had amassed. In the lead-up to the trial, Dominion publicly released internal communications among Fox executives, hosts, and producers that revealed the network’s strategy to win back viewers who had turned away after Trump’s loss. The messages demonstrate a frantic scramble within Fox as they began losing audience share to competitors who were more willing to endorse false claims about Dominion’s involvement in a plot to steal the election. The internal communications also showed how some Fox employees expressed doubts about and were critical of Trump and his allies as they spread lies about voter fraud, questioning the legitimacy of Biden’s election. Furthermore, some at Fox even mocked Trump and his lawyers as “crazy” and under the influence of drugs like L.S.D. and magic mushrooms.
Fox News hosts privately criticized their colleagues for endorsing Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, admitting there was no evidence to support them. Despite these doubts, Fox continued to provide a platform for election deniers for several weeks. Dominion, the voting technology company, disputed statements made on several Fox programs and filed a defamation lawsuit against the network. The trial promised to be a spectacle, with prominent Fox anchors and Mr. Murdoch, whose family controls the Fox media empire, slated to testify.
Fox raised questions about Dominion’s claims of damages and the potential harm to the First Amendment protections for the media. Despite doubts about Dominion’s worth and the harm it suffered, the potential pitfalls of proceeding with a trial were real for Fox. Some of the revelations from depositions conducted by Dominion offered a preview of how damaging a trial could be. During his deposition, Mr. Murdoch admitted that some Fox hosts had endorsed Mr. Trump’s lies, undermining Fox’s defense that it was simply reporting on the former president’s claims. After the deposition, Fox’s general counsel tried to reassure Mr. Murdoch, but he disagreed, pointing out the flaws in the defense.
By: Mr. WWK