“There will be no ‘fact checking’ today”: Fox News producer’s lawsuit makes it clear Fox is not a news organization
A Fox News producer is now suing the network, claiming it set her up to take a fall in the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems for spreading false claims about the 2020 election. The real news from this lawsuit, however, is how much more it reveals about Fox’s complete disregard for the truth or any basic practices of reporting, fact-checking, or correcting misinformation.
On March 20, The New York Times reported on a lawsuit brought against her employer by Fox News producer Abby Grossberg. The lawsuit claims that statements Grossberg made during a deposition in the Dominion defamation case, in which she expressed no contrition for airing false claims on the network, were delivered under compulsion from Fox News itself.
During her deposition, Ms. Grossberg was asked if she cared whether claims made on Ms. Bartiromo’s show were true or false. According to the transcript, Ms. Grossberg answered: “No. Because we didn’t know if they were true or false at that time.” When asked if she felt it was important to correct a false claim made on the air, Ms. Grossberg answered: “No.”
In her lawsuits, Ms. Grossberg said she would have answered those questions differently but had been “coached by and intimidated by” Fox’s lawyers.
Grossberg’s lawsuit also includes a text exchange with Fox executive David Clark, at the time the network’s senior vice president of weekend news, which Grossberg claims shows Clark explicitly instructing her not to correct guest Rudy Giuliani’s false and conspiratorial claims of massive election fraud. The directive should serve as a reminder that Fox News is not a real news organization.
Ms. Grossberg claimed that Fox lawyers pressured her to downplay a text exchange between her and David Clark, then the senior vice president of weekend news, regarding a segment with Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for Mr. Trump. Mr. Clark texted: “There will be no ‘fact checking’ today.”
Ms. Grossberg said she had understood Mr. Clark to mean that Ms. Bartiromo was not to push back against Mr. Giuliani’s false claims of widespread election fraud. An updated version of the filing stated that Ms. Grossberg believed Mr. Clark to mean that no one, including him, would step in to fact check the show.
The Fox spokeswoman said Mr. Clark had been referring instead to a practice in which Fox shows sometimes criticized material that had aired elsewhere on the network.
If the Fox spokeswoman quoted above intended to claim that other shows on the network would critique Giuliani’s statement, rather than during the interview itself, even this fig leaf of a statement is belied by other documents unearthed in the Dominion lawsuit showing that the network reprimanded and penalized its alleged “straight news” reporters for debunking misinformation pushed by its opinion hosts and their guests.
Whatever the merits of Grossberg’s claims about how Fox’s lawyers treated her, other evidence unearthed in the Dominion case has also demonstrated her clear role in spreading conspiracy theories. Her text messages with network anchor Maria Bartiromo show the degree to which she both credulously believed easily debunked conspiracy theories, while she simultaneously made a calculation to push false election fraud claims in order to court Fox News viewers. In a text message on November 29, 2020, Grossberg told Bartiromo that “our audience doesn’t want to hear about a peaceful transition,” then on November 30 she criticized other hosts who appeared to be giving less coverage to the purported election fraud: “74M people voted for Trump. That’s a lot of potential viewers. They’re all missing the boat.”
With each new revelation, the unscrupulous behavior commonplace at Fox News is being put on full public display.