Fox News suddenly agreed Tuesday to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s promotion of misinformation about the 2020 election. .
One of the largest defamation case settlements ever, the settlement was the latest unusual twist in a case filled with notable disclosures revealing the inner workings of some of the most powerful voices in conservative news. .
In addition to the enormous financial costs, Dominion sought difficult approval from Fox News, which admitted in a statement that “certain allegations” it made about Dominion were false.
“Truth matters. Lies have consequences,” Dominion attorney Justin Nelson said outside the Delaware Superior Court on Tuesday.
News of the agreement 11 hours later stunned the entire Wilmington courtroom where the case was being heard. Judge Eric M. Davis gasped when he told jurors just before 4:00 p.m. that both parties had resolved their issues. Both attorneys were preparing to speak to the jury for the first time, with microphones clipped to their jacket lapels.
The settlement saves Fox from a trial that would have dragged on for weeks, and many of the company’s most prominent figures are running, from media mogul Rupert Murdoch to hosts Tucker Carlson and Maria Bartillomo. is what happened.
The incident had the potential to expose a damaging stream of information about how the network told viewers stories of fraud and interference in the 2020 presidential election. It wasn’t coerced — a concession Dominion’s lawyers were asking for, said the attorney involved in the case.
Dominion filed a lawsuit two years ago after Fox published a false article that Dominion’s voting machines were vulnerable to hacking and the votes were switched from President Donald J. Trump to President Joseph R. Biden Jr. . financial costs that Fox must pay; Dominion’s lawsuit sought his $1.6 billion in damages, nearly doubling the amount of the settlement, but the company avoided years of appeals that could have cut or eliminated payments from the trial. To do.
“More than two years ago, a torrent of lies swept the Dominion and election officials across America into another world of conspiracy theories, causing serious damage to the Dominion and the country,” Nelson said. “Today’s $787.5 million settlement represents legitimacy and accountability.”
The case and anticipated trial were significant as they increased the likelihood of an elusive verdict in the post-Trump era. Treat and cast Mr. Biden’s victory as unjust. Polls show that many Republicans still believe the 2020 election was tainted.
Experts say the scale of the settlement is almost unprecedented. Ronnell Andersen-Jones, a law professor at the University of Utah’s SJ Queenie College of Law, believes it is one of the largest settlements in defamation cases to date.
“This was without a doubt the strongest defamation lawsuit I’ve ever seen against a major media company,” said Andersen-Jones. This case is even more unusual, she added, because media companies typically try to resolve a lot of damaging information about the inner workings before it’s made public.
After months of little serious discussion between the two sides, the deal was finalized at the last possible moment. As the case progressed, Dominion revealed startling details about the suspicions a Fox employee had personally expressed about the voter fraud allegations.
“It would of course have been in Fox’s best interest to settle before this pile of evidence was made public,” Andersen-Jones said. “Having waited until the eve of the trial so that the entire country could focus on what Fox said internally about Trump, its sources, and its audience, the Dominion added the accountability it sought. was given a layer of
Defamation cases rarely go to court. One of the reasons, he said, was the criteria for proving “actual malice” (that the defendant knew what he was saying was a lie or recklessly ignored the truth). the legal standard required to be shown to the plaintiff). — very expensive. It’s still rare to feature the massive amount of evidence the Dominion has amassed against Fox.
Leading up to trial, Dominion reveals a series of internal communications between Fox executives, hosts and producers as the nation’s hottest cable news network regains viewership after Trump stopped watching TV Revealed how the strategy for loss. These messages help competitors like Newsmax happily report on the Dominion machine’s conspiracy to steal the election from Mr. Trump, and endorse false allegations to help Fox win its share of the audience. It’s the story of a desperate internal race for Fox when it starts to lose.
Producers called pro-Trump guests like Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani “gold” in their ratings and hoped the audience would hear about topics such as the possibility of a peaceful transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration. I admitted no.
their communication Fox employees questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s election and expressed serious suspicion and, at times, contempt for Trump and his allies for spreading lies about voter fraud. Some on Fox mocked Trump and his lawyers as “crazy” and under the influence of drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms.
Some FOX hosts privately described their colleagues supporting Trump’s false allegations as “reckless” and admitted they had “no evidence” to back them up. Dominion disputed statements made on multiple shows on multiple nights. Usually, a defamation case contains only one statement at issue, he.
The trial would have been spectacular. Murdoch, whose family controls Fox’s media empire, was set to be one of the first witnesses to Dominion this week. was more likely to be called
Even The Most Blockbuster Media Trial Of The Last Generation — Ariel Sharon’s Suits against time and General William C. Westmoreland’s against CBSboth in the 1980s — lacking the most explosive element of the case, the protection the First Amendment affords the media and the price of amplifying misinformation by one of the most influential forces in conservative politics. A serious question arose as to whether the
Both of these cases were also resolved out of court.
Recently, Fox questioned Dominion’s claim for damages. questioned the damage suffered by Dominion, saying the company has admitted to becoming profitable in recent years.
But the potential pitfalls in proceeding with the trial were real for Fox. Some of the revelations from the depositions made by the Dominion provided a preview of how damaging the trial could be. Admitted to “supporting” Trump’s lies.
After the deposition was completed, Fox Corporation’s general counsel, Viet Dinh, tried to reassure Murdoch that he had done well.
“I’m going to say it. They didn’t put their finger on you,” said Ding.
According to an eyewitness to the exchange, Murdoch disagreed. “I think he would strongly disagree with that,” he said, pointing to Mr. Nelson, the lawyer who interrogated him in the Dominion case.
Mr. Nelson replied, “Yes, it is.”
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