A new filing by Dominion Voting Systems for a motion for summary judgment in its defamation lawsuit against Fox News revealed that multiple Fox executives and prime-time hosts privately attacked a handful of Fox hosts and reporters for fact-checking the 2020 election lies being spread by former President Donald Trump and his staff. The court document also exposed that these senior Fox personnel knew the Trumpworld claims were lies, even as the network continued to push them.
In March 2021, Dominion filed a defamation suit against Fox for the false claims the network pushed after the election. Those false claims were extensive: In the two-week period after Fox News declared Joe Biden the president-elect, the network questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it almost 800 times, including by using Dominion as a scapegoat and airing Trump campaign lies about Dominion voting machines getting hacked without any evidence.
Dominion filing shows senior Fox personnel criticized Fox reporters who fact-checked the election lies
The lightly redacted Dominion filing released on February 16 included specific instances of four Fox reporters and hosts who fact-checked or otherwise criticized the claims from Trump and his staffers, along with adverse reactions to these statements from senior Fox executives and prime-time hosts (emphasis added):
Fox host Neil Cavuto broke away from an announcement by then-press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and called her out for accusing Democrats of “rigging and cheating” without presenting proof.
In response to the Cavuto segment, Fox Corp.’s brand team under Senior Vice President Raj Shah “notified senior Fox News and Fox Corporation leadership of the ‘Brand Threat’ posed by Cavuto’s action.”
Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich on November 12, 2020, fact-checked a tweet from Trump in which he recommended watching episodes from Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs and accused Dominion of being “used in States where tens of thousands of votes were stolen from us and given to Biden.” Heinrich noted that “top election infrastructure officials said on the record” that “‘the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history… There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.’"
Fox host Tucker Carlson tried to get Heinrich fired over her tweet. According to the filing, Carlson told Fox host Sean Hannity: “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.” He added, “I just went crazy on Meade [Cooper, Fox’s executive vice president for prime-time programming] over it.” Hannity replied that he had “already” sent it to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott “with a really?” Hannity added: “I’m 3 strikes. Wallace shit debate Election night a disaster Now this BS? Nope. Not gonna fly. Did I mention Cavuto?”
The filing shows that Scott told Fox News President Jay Wallace and Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications Irena Briganti that “'Sean texted me—he’s standing down on responding but not happy about this and doesn’t understand how this is allowed to happen from anyone in news. She [Heinrich] has serious nerve doing this and if this gets picked up, viewers are going to be further disgusted.’”
Then-Fox reporter Kristin Fisher fact-checked the Trump legal team’s wild November 19, 2020, press conference, which she called “light on facts” and largely “simply not true,” adding that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani “failed to provide any hard evidence.”
According to the filing, “Fox’s executives were not pleased” with Fisher’s fact check of the November 19 Giuliani press conference. It explains: “Fisher received a call from her boss, Bryan Boughton, immediately after in which he ‘emphasized that higher-ups at Fox News were also unhappy with it,’ and that Fisher ‘needed to do a better job of…—this is a quote—“respecting our audience.”’”
Fox anchor Dana Perino said on November 19 that the Giuliani press conference gave fodder for Dominion to “take some sort of action” in court.
The Fox executives were also upset with Perino: Her “comment resulted in Scott ‘screaming about Dana’s show and their reaction to the Rudy presser.’” She elaborated in “an email regarding both Perino and Fisher’s coverage, ‘[Y]ou can’t give the crazies an inch right now…they are looking for and blowing up all appearances of disrespect to the audience.’” She also noted: “‘The audience feels like we crapped on [them] and we have damaged their trust and belief in us....We can fix this but we cannot smirk at our viewers any longer.’”
These same senior Fox personnel who criticized the fact checks also said they knew the Trumpworld claims about Dominion and the election were false
Quotes from the filing showed Fox’s executives and prime-time hosts knew they were lying about Dominion or the election at the time, including most of the specific personnel who attacked Fox reporters for fact-checking these lies:
- Fox star Tucker Carlson to his producer Alex Pfeiffer about Sidney Powell, one of Trump's campaign lawyers: “Powell is lying.”
- Carlson to fellow Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane.” Ingraham replied: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.” Carlson replied: “It’s unbelievably offensive to me. Our viewers are good people and they believe it.”
- As the filing outlined, Carlson texted to a redacted name “that it was ‘shockingly reckless’ to claim that Dominion rigged the election ‘[i]f there’s no one inside the company willing to talk, or internal Dominion documents or copies of the software showing that they did it’ and ‘as you know there isn’t.’”
- Carlson to Ingraham: Powell’s “a nut, as you said at the outset. It totally wrecked my weekend. Wow... I had to try to make the WH disavow her, which they obviously should have done long before.” Ingraham responded to Carlson: “No serious lawyer could believe what they were saying.”
- Scott responded “Yes, I believe that,” to the question “You believe, since at least the time that Fox News called the election on November 7th, that Joe Biden was legitimately elected the President of the United States, correct?”
- Scott to Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch: “Viewers going through the 5 stages of grief. It’s a question of trust—the AZ [call] was damaging but we will highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them.” Murdoch replied: “Yes. But needs constant rebuilding without any missteps.” Scott responded: “Yes today is day one and it’s a process.”
- Scott: “Privately, I had a number of conversations with Sean where he wanted the President to accept the results.”
- Shah wrote: “shit is so crazy right now. so many people openly denying the obvious that Powell is clearly full of it.” Carlson’s producer Alex Pfeiffer replied: “She is a fucking nutcase.”