News - April 19, 2023

Fox News settles Dominion defamation case for $787.5m

Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch.

Fox News has settled a defamation lawsuit from the voting machine company, Dominion, over its reporting of the 2020 presidential election.

Fox News has reached a settlement in a defamation lawsuit filed against them by Dominion, a voting machine company, regarding their coverage of the 2020 presidential election. The last-minute agreement, reached before the trial began, requires Fox News to pay $787.5 million, which is approximately half of the initial $1.6 billion sought by Dominion. The lawsuit alleged that Fox News spread false claims that the election was rigged against Donald Trump, resulting in harm to Dominion’s business.

The settlement means that Fox executives, including Rupert Murdoch, will not have to testify in court, sparing them from potential legal repercussions. The judge overseeing the case does not need to approve the settlement.

In a statement, Fox News stated that the settlement reflects their commitment to the highest journalistic standards, without providing further details. Dominion’s CEO, John Poulos, stated in a press conference that the settlement included Fox News admitting to spreading lies that caused significant damage to his company. Dominion’s attorney, Justin Nelson, emphasized that the truth matters and that lies have consequences, stating that the spread of conspiracy theories harmed Dominion and the country as a whole.

The trial was set to begin with opening arguments on Tuesday, but there was an unexplained delay of several hours after jury selection had concluded, leading to speculation that settlement talks were taking place behind the scenes. On Monday, the judge had announced a 24-hour delay to the trial, reportedly to give both parties an opportunity to reach a settlement. However, on Tuesday morning, it appeared that both sides were preparing for a lengthy trial.

Fox News had objected to the $1.6 billion in damages sought by Dominion, arguing that the figure was inflated and that the real cost of the case would be the protection of the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press. Dominion’s lawsuit accused Fox News of damaging their reputation by broadcasting false claims about the 2020 election being stolen from former President Trump, particularly in an effort to win over viewers who were upset with Fox’s decision to correctly declare Joe Biden as the winner in Arizona on election night.

Legal findings revealed ahead of the trial showed that several Fox executives and journalists privately questioned and dismissed the conspiracy claims about the election, but still aired them.

Text messages showed that Rupert Murdoch referred to the claims about Dominion as “really wild” but took no action. Hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity also privately expressed disbelief in the claims.

Fox News claimed that these statements were taken out of context.

Despite the substantial settlement amount, some legal experts view the settlement as a positive outcome for Fox News. Professor Roy Gutterman, an expert in First Amendment law from Syracuse University, stated that a lengthy trial would have been grueling and potentially embarrassing for Fox News, and a verdict against them could have been even more costly with implications for future rulings on defamation and the First Amendment.

Fox News still faces another defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another election technology firm, seeking $2.7 billion. Dominion also has pending litigation against two conservative news networks, OAN and Newsmax. Dominion has also filed lawsuits against Trump allies, including Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Mike Lindell.

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