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The media defamation case of the century has settled before the opening arguments.
Fox Corp. has settled the high-profile defamation case brought against it by Dominion Voting Systems, effectively putting an end to the suit.
Judge Eric Davis announced the resolution in court Tuesday, after the start of the trial was delayed by two hours. “The parties have resolved their case,” Davis said.
Terms of the settlement were not immediately disclosed, though Dominion had been seeking $1.6 billion from Fox in its suit. In a press conference after court was adjourned, Dominion’s lawyer said the settlement was for $787 million and that it represented “accountability.” A source familiar with the terms said they did not dictate an on-air apology.
“We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems,” a Fox spokesperson said Tuesday. “We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. 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.”
The slow-burn nature of the discovery process has led to revealing correspondence from Fox News’ leading talent — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and others — showing that the on-air anchors were skeptical of the narrative of widespread election fraud that Trump’s legal advisers were pushing at the time. Yet Fox News still allowed those opinions to air, with the rationale that, as president, Trump’s messaging was newsworthy regardless of the veracity of the claims.
That testimony hasn’t been limited to on-air talent. Emails and correspondence from Fox moguls Rupert Murdoch and son Lachlan Murdoch have been released and picked over in the media for a revealing view at how the most watched, conservative cable news brand is run. Rupert Murdoch, for example, disclosed in testimony that he makes coverage suggestions to Fox News execs and had also instructed leadership on which guests not to book, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, whom he had described as “a fringe character.”
During the course of testimony, Rupert Murdoch was asked if he could’ve instructed Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to stop airing the likes of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who had been at the forefront of spreading election related fraud claims. “I could have,” Murdoch stated, “but I didn’t.”
Murdoch, in testimony, also conceded that Fox hosts at times endorsed the notion of a stolen election, replying in the affirmative under questioning and naming Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and anchor Maria Bartiromo as commentators.
It was a rare public look at the typically secretive inner workings of arguably the most powerful media outlet in America.
Dominion is a manufacturer of voting equipment, and after President Trump lost the 2020 election, it was the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, some of which were pushed by Trump’s lawyers Giuliani and Sidney Powell. Both appeared on Fox News a number of times in the weeks after the election, and some of Fox’s hosts (notably Dobbs and Bartiromo) seemed to be sympathetic to the conspiracies.
Dominion sued Fox Corp. in March 2021.
Fox News argued that it was simply covering the news, and with President Trump and his attorneys making the claims about Dominion and the election, they were inherently newsworthy. Dominion argued that Fox executives were spooked that competitors like Newsmax were having some success in siphoning Fox’s audience away, and the outlet wanted to do whatever it took to keep their viewers happy, even if it meant parroting a conspiracy its employees knew not to be true.
Earlier in April, Fox settled another defamation suit tied to the aftermath of the 2020 election, one filed by a Venezuelan businessman named Majed Khalil, who was the subject of a Dobbs segment that painted him as part of a conspiracy to steal the election for Joe Biden.
Fox is also being sued by electronic voting firm Smartmatic USA Corp., which filed its own lawsuit over the fraud claims in February 2021.
Erik Hayden contributed to this report.
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