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The 10 most important things we learned about Fox News from the Dominion case

This is what you need to know about what Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit has revealed about Fox News so far

A newly-released filing in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News reveals that the network knew it was pushing false claims to its viewers in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

This post has been updated with additional information.

  • Fox figures privately attacked their colleagues who pushed back on Donald Trump’s election lies.

  • Prime-time host Tucker Carlson asked for one Fox reporter to be fired after she accurately reported on Trump’s election lies. According to the filing, Carlson complained to fellow host Sean Hannity about Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich, who “was ‘fact checking’ a tweet by Trump that mentioned Dominion—and specifically mentioned Hannity’s and Dobbs’ broadcasts that evening discussing Dominion.” Carlson reportedly wrote: “Please get her fired. Seriously....What the fuck? I’m actually shocked...It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” [11/12/20]

  • After fact-checking election lies, Fox reporter Kristin Fisher was scolded by leadership for not cowing to viewers. After White House correspondent Kristin Fisher fact-checked Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s press conference, she received a call from her boss, Bryan Boughton, in which he “emphasized that higher-ups at Fox News were also unhappy with it,” and said that Fisher “needed to do a better job of…—this is a quote—‘respecting our audience.’” [11/19/20]

  • In one instance, Fox Corp leadership branded Neil Cavuto — anchor, senior vice president, and managing editor of business news across Fox News and Fox Business — as a “Brand Threat” for not broadcasting election lies. According to the filing, Fox anchor Neil Cavuto cut away from a White House press conference when Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany began making unsubstantiated voter fraud claims. “The brand team led by Raj Shah at Fox Corporation notified senior Fox News and Fox Corporation leadership of the ‘Brand Threat’ posed by Cavuto’s action.” [11/9/20]

  • Showing their partisan goals, Rupert Murdoch told Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott that the network would “concentrate” on “helping any way we can” in the Georgia runoff elections.

  • According to the filing, Murdoch emailed Scott, “Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can.” Leading up to the runoff election, Fox repeatedly attacked Democratic candidate the Rev. Raphael Warnock. [11/16/20]

  • Fox executives told Murdoch and Scott that the network's stolen election lies could lead viewers to believe the 2020 presidential election could be overturned on January 6, 2021.

  • According to the filing, “When Rupert Murdoch asked Suzanne Scott whether it was ‘unarguable that high-profile Fox voices fed the story that the election was stolen and that January 6 an important chance to have the results overturned,’ Fox executives responded with 50 examples.”

  • Sean Hannity said he didn’t believe Sidney Powell’s election lies. He platformed her anyway. 

  • According to the filing, “Hannity knew what Powell would say on air: she [had] been making these same claims for weeks, including on his own nationally syndicated radio show earlier that same day on November 30, and Hannity intended to bring up her allegations about Dominion on his Fox show that night.” Hannity would admit later under oath that he never believed that Dominion cheated Trump out of an electoral victory in 2020. [11/30/20]

  • Fox News lied about Dominion and the 2020 election to compete with far-right Newsmax.

  • Fox News knowingly platformed lies about Dominion to keep its viewers from switching to Newsmax following the 2020 election. In multiple instances found in the filing, Fox executives and hosts acknowledged that Newmax was attempting to steal their viewers. To fight Newsmax’s efforts, Fox executives decided to lean into stolen election rhetoric. In one instance, Fox Senior Vice President Ron Mitchell sent a memo to Fox CEO Suzanne Scott and Fox President Jay Wallace claiming, “This type of conspiratorial reporting might be exactly what the disgruntled FNC [Fox News Channel] viewer is looking for.” The filing also claimed that Mitchell “had an analysis done that showed Fox viewers were switching the channel specifically to watch Sidney Powell as a guest.” Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity “brought Powell on mere days” later. [11/18/20]

  • Fox executives and hosts repeatedly acknowledged that their election fraud conspiracy theories were “reckless” and “crazy.” 

  • In multiple instances, Fox News executives and hosts acknowledge that the conspiracy theories and election fraud misinformation on their channel were dangerous and reckless.

  • Fox executive Gary Schreier said, “The problem is she [Maria Bartiromo] has gop conspiracy theorists in her ear and they use her for their message sometimes.” [11/8/20]

  • Fox President Jay Wallace stated that “the North Koreans do a more nuanced show” than former show host Lou Dobbs. [September 2020]

  • After a Fox anchor suggested the network buy the app Parler, Wallace said: “we can barely contain [Lou] Dobbs—imagine all the crazy we’d be responsible for.” [1/8/21]

  • Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson described Lou Dobbs as “reckless.” [2/7/21]

  • Fox News Vice President of Weekend News Jerry Andrews said Fox host “Jeanine [Pirro] is just as nuts.” [11/22/20]

  • Carlson’s executive producer on Pirro: “They took her off cuz she was being crazy. Optics are bad. But she is crazy.” [11/7/20]

  • Fox Corp. Senior Vice President Raj Shah claimed, “Hannity is a little out there.” [11/5/20]

  • Laura Ingraham’s producer Tommy Firth texted Fox executive Ron Mitchell, “This dominion shit is going to give me a fucking aneurysm—as many times as I’ve told Laura it’s bs, she sees shit posters and trump tweeting about it.” [11/12/20]

  • Two days after the election, Fox’s chief political anchor Bret Baier acknowledged privately, “There is NO evidence of fraud. None.” He was ignored.

  • After viewing Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo’s social media posts about election fraud, Baier warned Bill Sammon, Fox News’ senior vice president and managing editor of the Washington, D.C., Bureau, saying, “We have to prevent this stuff...We need to fact check.” [11/5/20]

  • Fox News could not afford to lose more credibility among its right-wing viewers after calling Arizona for Joe Biden. The network proceeded to air Dominion conspiracy theories to appease its viewers.

  • After Fox News called Arizona for Biden on election night, Fox executives felt it had lost credibility among its right-wing viewers. To gain that credibility back, the network couldn’t make any “missteps,” which meant leaning into conspiracy theories about Dominion. Following Fox calling Arizona for Biden, host Tucker Carlson wrote in a text message to his producer, “Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience? We’re playing with fire, for real.” In a text message exchange between Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, Scott wrote to Murdoch that the network must let “viewers know we hear them and respect them.” Murdoch responded, agreeing that the network needs “constant rebuilding without any missteps.” The network proceeded to air Dominion conspiracy theories. [11/9/20]

  • Fox News hosts and producers knew Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell were pushing election lies. That did not stop them from getting booked. 

  • Rupert Murdoch, Fox News producers, and hosts acknowledged that then-Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell were unreliable guests. They continued to be booked on Fox anyway. Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that Giuliani’s claims needed to be “taken with a large grain of salt.” Fox host Sean Hannity described Giuliani as “acting like an insane person,” and a producer for Lou Dobbs wrote, “Keeping in mind [Giuliani’s] insanity lately.” A Fox producer described Powell’s lawsuits as “complete BS,” and host Laura Ingraham texted Tucker Carlson that Powell “is a complete nut.” Powell and Giuliani appeared at least 33 times on Fox News and Fox Business in the six weeks following the election. [11/16/20; 11/11/20; 11/18/20; 11/27/20; 11/18/20]

  • Fox News “has no written editorial guidelines.”

  • The filing states that Fox News “has no written editorial guidelines.” According to the filing, there appears to be no written editorial standards or guidelines for Fox News staffers and hosts. This leads to the network airing misinformation and conspiracy theories in an effort to please its right-wing viewers and profit.