A recent filing in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News reveals the extent to which the network knew it was pushing false claims to its viewers in the aftermath of the 2020 election by suggesting that Dominion’s machines were involved in voter fraud. Totalling 192 pages, the lawyers for Dominion lay out a seemingly endless list of facts and evidence that show how — from producers to on-air personalities to executives to Rupert Murdoch himself — “literally dozens of people with editorial responsibility” at Fox acted with, in their view, “actual malice,” which is the legal standard for defamation.
The filing includes text messages between Fox Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott demonstrating that the pair understood it was “unarguable” to claim that election fraud misinformation broadcast on Fox News by “high-profile Fox voices” led viewers to believing that the 2020 presidential election could be overturned on January 6.
In fact, Fox executives provided 50 examples of Fox News broadcasts that illustrated that Murdoch’s claim was “unarguable.”
From page 13 (emphasis in original):
Broadcasters make choices about what to air. While that platform comes with tremendous power, it also carries an obligation to tell the truth. Fox, “one of the most influential news properties in history,” Ex.128, Lowell 30(b)(6) 624:20-25, decided to use its megaphone to spread falsehoods. It deceived millions of people. The First Amendment not only allows defamation claims in these instances, New York Times v. Sullivan and its progeny make clear that a broadcaster does not have an unfettered license to lie. 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—including broadcasts accused here.
Fox knew the truth. It knew the allegations against Dominion were “outlandish” and “crazy” and “ludicrous” and “nuts.” Yet it used the power and influence of its platform to promote that false story. Fox knew better. As Rupert Murdoch told Suzanne Scott in the aftermath of January 6, “All very well for Sean [Hannity] to tell you he was in despair about Trump but what did he tell his viewers?”
The filing is the latest development in the yearslong battle over Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News, originally filed in March 2021. Depositions of the Fox News employees began around August 2022, and the newly released brief is by far the biggest disclosure of facts and evidence from Dominion’s side so far in the case.
Dominion is seeking to prove that Fox News knew it was broadcasting false information by showing that its stars were admitting the truth in private even as they continued to spread falsehoods about voting irregularities on-air.
Some of Fox News’ biggest names repeated the lies about Dominion or otherwise smeared the company, including Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and Lou Dobbs. Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and Sidney Powell also appeared on the network to spread falsehoods about Dominion. The network continued to push the lies even after its stars and executives knew the information was false.
Among the myriad false accusations aired on Fox were claims that Dominion machines altered vote counts, that the company gave “kickbacks” to elected officials, and that the voting machines were owned or controlled by foreign governments.