The Dominion Voting Systems logo is placed atop a voting booth

Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Shareholders just sued Fox over Dominion election lies. Here’s how Fox board members and executives let election lies run rampant.

This week, public pension funds in New York and Oregon announced a shareholder lawsuit against Fox Corp. and its board of directors regarding the lies pushed about the 2020 presidential election. Unsealed filings from the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit earlier this year exposed that Fox board members, including Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, knew that election lies were being pushed on the air but repeatedly allowed the deception to spread in order to promote Fox’s bottom line.

  • Shareholders sue Fox over Dominion defamation lawsuits

    • On September 12, New York City’s pension funds sued Fox Corp. and its board over Dominion’s defamation lawsuits in what was described as “the most significant shareholder action since Fox settled a blockbuster defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems.” As The New York Times reported, the funds are “accusing the company of neglecting its duty to shareholders by opening itself up to defamation lawsuits from the persistent broadcasting of falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election.” [The New York Times, 9/12/23]
    • That same day, the attorney general of Oregon announced that the state’s Public Employee Retirement Fund would join the New York City pension funds’ lawsuit as co-plaintiffs. A press release from the Oregon Department of Justice similarly accused the Fox Corp. board of having “exposed themselves and the company to liability and exposed their shareholders to significant risks” through their networks’ airing of election lies. [Oregon Department of Justice, 9/12/23]
    • In April, Fox Corp. reached a pretrial agreement with Dominion Voting, resulting in a $787.5 million settlement in “one of the largest defamation settlements in U.S. history.” Fox Corp. is also expected to go to trial in 2025 for a similar defamation dispute filed by Smartmatic, another voting company, in part for its false claims that Smartmatic owned Dominion and that both companies altered “millions of votes.” [The New York Times, 4/18/23; Media Matters, 5/1/23]
    • Though multiple Fox executives privately expressed skepticism of claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, the networks ultimately chose to air election misinformation to keep the favor of their conservative audience and benefit their bottom line. As Media Matters has previously noted, “The network’s promotion of these conspiracy theories came amid internal fears that viewers would abandon Fox for its Trumpier competitors.” [Media Matters, 4/18/23]
  • The Dominion filings showed the Murdochs were aware of the potential repercussions of Fox airing Trump’s election lies

  • Rupert Murdoch, founder and chair of Fox Corp. 

    • Upon watching interviews on Fox with former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, Murdoch wrote, “Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear.” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott also commented, “Yes Sean [Hannity] and even [Jeanine] Pirro agrees.” [Media Matters, 2/16/23]
    • When asked if he could have stopped Fox from airing interviews with Powell and Giuliani in November 2020, Murdoch said, “I could have. But I didn’t.” Filings from Dominion also show that Murdoch claimed that Fox executives who knowingly allowed lies to be broadcast on the air “should be reprimanded, maybe get rid of.” [Media Matters, 2/27/23, 3/2/23]
    • Referencing the decision to allow election denier and Republican megadonor Mike Lindell on the network, Murdoch agreed, “It is not red or blue, it is green.” Lindell later thanked Murdoch for continuing to air ads for his company MyPillow despite his history of spreading lies about the 2020 race. [Media Matters, 3/1/23]

    Lachlan Murdoch, Fox Corp. CEO and executive chair

    • In written correspondence between Murdoch and Scott, they emphasized the importance of rebuilding trust with the Fox News audience after the network correctly called Arizona for Joe Biden in 2020. Murdoch wrote to Scott that the process to appease their viewers “needs constant rebuilding without any missteps.” [Media Matters, 2/16/23]
    • Regarding election coverage between November 2020 and January 2021, Murdoch claimed to have weighed in on the “specific direction on both the tone and narrative of Fox’s news coverage.” Murdoch also testified he “did share his views on what guests should or should not” make appearances on Fox and had “provided suggestions of specific questions to ask a particular guest.” [Media Matters, 3/6/23]
    • During Fox’s live coverage of a pro-Trump rally in November 2020, Murdoch gave notes to Scott suggesting that some of the network’s comments were anti-Trump when “they shouldn’t be.” He also criticized the ticker shown at the bottom of the Fox News screen as “all wrong” for being “way too wordy and long” and “anti trump whenever possible.” [Media Matters, 3/6/23]
  • Non-Murdoch board members warned about the gravity of the moment

  • Paul Ryan, former speaker of the House (R-WI) and Fox Corp. board member

    • Ryan rationalized Fox’s coverage, stating the company was “trying to navigate this dynamic between a core group of Trump loyalists who were ignoring the truth and the truth itself.” He also claimed that both Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch agreed that the January 6 insurrection acted as a “huge inflection point to keep Trump down and move on for the future of the conservative moment.” [Media Matters, 2/27/23]
    • As a member of Fox Corp.’s board, Ryan noted it was his “fiduciary duty” to guide Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch to “dispel conspiracy theories if and when they pop up.” Ryan also noted to Lachlan Murdoch that pushing back on election denialism would be a “key inflection point for Fox, where the right thing and the smart business thing to do line up nicely.” [Media Matters, 3/8/23]

    Anne Dias, Fox Corp. board member

    • Dias tried to sound the alarm to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch that the January 6 insurrection was an “existential moment for the nation and for Fox News as a brand.” She also noted that “the time has come” for the company “to take a stance.” [Media Matters, 3/8/23]
  • Top Fox executives were also involved in prioritizing ratings over the truth

  • Suzanne Scott, CEO of Fox News

    • Scott confirmed that she did “believe that” when asked if she thought Joe Biden was the “legitimately elected the President of the United States” after Fox had called the election on November 7. However, this didn’t stop Scott and Rupert Murdoch from continuing to allow election lies to be broadcast on the network even though the two demonstrated they understood that it was “unarguable that high-profile Fox voices fed the story that the election was stolen and that January 6 [was] an important chance to have the results overturned.” [Media Matters, 2/16/23, 2/16/23]
    • Scott previously scolded Fox News hosts and anchors who called out election misinformation and unproven conspiracy theories. She was reported to be “screaming” in reaction to negative coverage by Fox anchor Dana Perino and then-Fox reporter Kristin Fisher of a November 2020 “Stop the Steal” rally, noting, “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.” [Media Matters, 3/2/23]
    • Behind the scenes, Scott also worked to preserve Fox’s relationship with Mike Lindell despite his propensity to spread misinformation on air. In December 2020, when Lindell claimed that Fox was supposedly “in on” stealing the election, Scott sent him a gift and personal note and stressed that Fox programs should continue to book the pillow entrepreneur to “get ratings.” [Media Matters, 3/2/23]

    Jay Wallace, president of Fox News 

    • In November 2020, a consultant for Dominion personally reached out to Wallace attempting to dispel the “completely and verifiable wrong information” Fox aired about the voting company. Even after the consultant and Wallace spoke on the phone, then-Fox host Lou Dobbs continued to spew lies about Dominion on the air. [Media Matters, 3/2/23]
    • Wallace was also revealed to have taken “direct action” to delay Fox’s election decision desk in correctly calling the state of Nevada for Biden. Reporters Susan Glasser and Peter Baker reported that “Wallace did not want Fox to be the first to call the election and declare Biden president-elect” because of expected criticism from Trump supporters. [Media Matters, 9/20/22]

    Raj Shah, former senior vice president of Fox Corp.

    • In a message unveiled in the Dominion lawsuit, Shah wrote, “Shit is so crazy right now. so many people openly denying the obvious that Powell is clearly full of it.” Shah also commented that Powell’s election lies were “MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS.” [Media Matters, 2/16/23, 3/2/23]
    • After Fox News host Neil Cavuto cut away from a feed of then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany spewing false election claims, Fox Corp.’s brand team — led by Shah — “notified senior Fox News and Fox Corporation leadership of the ‘Brand Threat’ posed by Cavuto’s action.” Cavuto expressed heavy criticism of McEnany, stating “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I just think we have to be very clear that she's charging the other side is welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this.” [Media Matters, 2/21/23]
    • Shah advised the team of then-Fox host Tucker Carlson to “pivot to being deferential” when dealing with Powell, urging a producer to downplay her bad-faith claims. Shah wrote that Powell’s claims were “so fucking insane.” [Media Matters, 3/2/23]

    Viet Dinh, chief legal and policy officer of Fox Corp.

    • During questioning for the Dominion lawsuit, Dinh confirmed he could have “pretty easily” looked up and debunked the false claim that Dominion was Venezuelan-owned and created to rig elections in favor of dictator Hugo Chavez. Dinh also ceded that Fox’s executive team is obligated to “prevent and correct known falsehoods” and responded no when asked whether Fox should “broadcast election fraud allegations that it knows to be false.” [Media Matters, 3/2/23, 3/8/23]