Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News love being in the news. Even before Dominion Voting System’s defamation suit against Fox could reach finality, the news network makes an eleventh-hour settlement. The two-year-old suit was over the network’s relentless broadcasting of misinformation about the 2020 American presidential elections. Dominion had alleged that Fox amplified phoney reputation-damaging conspiracy theories.
Caught on a weak wicket, Fox was desperate to avoid serious embarrassment. The right-wing network knew it would be a time-gobbling trial. Worse, the facts were on Dominion’s side. Without blinking, in a cut-the-losses-and-scoot move, Fox agreed on April 18, to settle the suit out of court. Fox will now pay a whopping $787.5m and resolve the issue. The settlement was struck minutes before a six-week trial was due to begin. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/18/business/media/fox-dominion-defamation-settle.html
Revelations on How Fox is Run
The right-wing American media mouthpieces are visibly alarmed as this is one of the largest-ever defamation settlements in the country. Inevitably, the Fox settlement is causing tremors in American newsrooms. The surprising denouement offers a sudden edge-of-the-seat turn in the Fox-Dominion saga and the suit has been eventful all along. The case will now come to a close, after offering shock revelations on how Fox is run.
What shocked Americans more was the official statement from Fox, owning up to the mendacity behind “certain claims” it made about Dominion, a little-known company till the surprising settlement. However, Fox is visibly relieved as the settlement will help the network avoid a tortuous trial and an ignominious public apology. Plus, key Foxers, including Mr Murdoch and high-profile hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity will escape testifying. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us- politics/fox-news-dominion-settlement-statement-murdoch- b2323177.html
Video Courtesy: YouTube/ABC News (Australia)
Corruption and Accountability Vindicated
The relief does not end there. Fox will be able to avoid extensive exposure of its fake invasive journalism. Fox had aired, during the 2020 presidential polls, lies about Dominion. Fox had beamed phoney stories on how Dominion’s voting machines were eminently hackable and how this ease of hacking turned Donald Trump’s votes over to his opponent Joe Biden. While Dominion had sued for damages of $1.6bn, the settlement will now save Fox much money, pain and time. https://poliphoon.com/fox-news-is-fracturing-democracy/
Dominion too is happy as it has been vindicated. The sizeable settlement is Fox’s acknowledgement of its corruption and accountability. The settlement will help Dominion undo the reputational damage inflicted by Fox. More than anything else, Dominion’s fears that Mr Trump and his allies would be able to evade legal action and thus justice would not be done have not come true. https://morningshots.thebulwark.com/p/no- apologies-for-foxs-costly-lies
Could Have Revealed its Underbelly
Dominion had other fears too. Despite so much evidence at their disposal for nailing Fox, Dominion’s legal experts had feared the defamation suit might not get to the trial stage. Sure, had it reached trial, the suit would have exposed Fox fully. The volume of Fox’s internal messages, which were in Dominion’s possession, was so high that tell-tale evidences would have stripped Fox down to reveal its ugly underbelly. Dominion had enough proof to show the court the true colours of the help-Trump strategy Fox was on.
Fox had turned more aggressive in airing its false Dominion propaganda after it began losing out to Newsmax. Fox became enthusiastic then about helping the Republicans. The network picked star Trumpians for its top-rated shows, which revolved around Trump’s pet themes. Though this left many Fox employees unhappy and disillusioned, the network persevered with its help-Trump agenda and continued to air baseless Trumpian claims. https://www.wsj.com/articles/surge-in-newsmax-ratings- shook-fox-news-then-faded-59e1e373
Practical Despite the Bravado
For Dominion, Fox’s misguided editorial policy offered ample scope for proving the network a consummate liar. Yet, Fox was undaunted as the sensational Fox-Dominion case kept throwing up questions like should a mighty Fox be punished and shouldn’t it be entitled to protection under the First Amendment kept surfacing up. Fox might have felt it would win the case ultimately.
Fox had more reasons to feel so. Much like what it does on screen, in the courtroom too, Fox questioned Dominion’s damage claim. Fox went on to quarrel over Dominion’s worth and alluded hidden motives behind its claim for damages. Fox pointed fingers at Dominion’s healthy profits and maintained that the network’s stories hadn’t harmed it in any manner. Despite this bravado, Fox must have turned practical and wiser to go for a settlement. https://www.reuters.com/legal/fox-settlement-leaves-key- question-unanswered-whats-dominion-really-worth-2023-04-21/
Fox Underplays the Settlement
Fox must have realised going ahead with the trial would damage its reputation and bottom line. This explains Fox’s surprise settlement with Dominion. Fox was equally aware of the damage potential of this settlement news. Predictably, while the news of the settlement hogged banner space on all major television news networks, it was given minimum coverage by Fox. In all, Fox’s coverage added up to scratchy six minutes in the first four hours post-settlement.
Perhaps Fox underplaying the settlement is reflective of the concerns it has over its other pending lawsuits. Smartmatic, an election-tech company, has a $2.7bn defamation suit against Fox. The charge: airing lies saying Smartmatic was involved in vote-rigging during the 2020 presidential elections. Fox is not on a sound footing in this case. Smartmatic apart, Fox’s former news producer Abby Grossberg’s two lawsuits against the network for its hostile work environment too are pending before the courts. There are many more. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/18/business/media/fox-lawsuits-legal-cases.html
Known for Extreme Actions
Considering Fox’s 92-year-old controlling shareholder and chief executive Murdoch’s penchant for settling cases out of court, it was anybody’s guess how the Dominion suit would have ended. When pushed and shoved, Mr Murdoch is known to take refuge in extreme actions like closing down. He wound up his popular tabloid News of the World in 2011 after charges of hacking surfaced. Predictably, Mr Murdoch remains stoic to this day as all those damning revelations during the Fox-Dominion case have done little to dent the network’s popularity. https://www.salon.com/2023/03/02/rupert-murdoch-usually-settles-his-many–so-why-is-he-toughing-out- the-dominion-case/
Dominion is the most elated character in the Fox-Dominion defamation drama, however. Soon after the settlement, in a press conference outside the court, Dominion’s attorney Justin Nelson declared the settlement stood for ‘vindication and accountability’. He continued to say with utmost conviction: “The truth matters. Lies have consequences. For our democracy to endure for another 250 years and, hopefully much longer, we must share a commitment to facts.” https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/dominion-voting-gives- remarks-after-settlement-with-fox-news-on-2020-election- defamation-case-transcript Networks that ignore these words do so at their peril. Without doubt, Fox’s abrupt and steep settlement of the Dominion suit proves who stands defamed and discredited now.