The most recent evidence released from Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News brings the network’s “Brain Room” into the spotlight. This department aims to provide fact-checking and research, supposedly arming Fox producers, personalities, and executives with facts and the truth for their reporting and analysis. But the Brain Room’s work is often ignored by Fox producers and executives, and the truth doesn’t ever make it to Fox’s audience.
In March 2021, Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for lying about the 2020 election and spreading conspiracy theories about the company. The most recent details from this suit reveal that the network’s fact-checking and research department — the Brain Room — determined that claims that Dominion helped rig the election were false. The Brain Room shared its findings with production staff but were ignored: Fox News personalities continued to push election misinformation on air. Knowing just how damning this evidence was, the network initially redacted it. These details were only made public on March 29 per a court order.
Fox’s fact-checking and reporting unit, the Brain Room, is supposed to “kill BS stories.” But its findings — and the truth — don't always make their way to the airwaves.
Fox News’ Brain Room is as old as the network itself. Former chair Roger Ailes founded Fox News as a conservative outlet, but — still claiming to value “fair and balanced” straight news reporting — Ailes also established a “fact-checking and research unit,” known as the Brain Room.
This department seemingly serves as the bedrock of Fox’s fact-based journalism, and as former Brain Room researcher and current NBC journalist Brandy Zadrozny tweeted, its “internal mandate was to ‘kill BS stories.’” However, the Brain Room often finds itself at odds with network executives, potentially because some are “not interested in facts.”
The Brain Room was hit hard during Fox’s September 2020 mass layoffs, with nearly a quarter of its 30-person team packing up their desks, according to The Daily Beast. Many Fox staffers believed that this “virtual lobotomy” occurred because the Brain Room “came up with facts that were not used in Fox reports or were in contradiction to what Fox aired.” Several employees characterized this as a “purposeful devaluing of fact-based journalism in favor of right-wing opinion, race-baiting, and conspiracy-mongering.”
The gutting of the Brain Room came just before the 2020 election and only a few months after reporting revealed that the network knew — because of the Brain Room’s research — that guests and hosts were lying about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
Prior to the Dominion filings, the network’s Ukraine coverage illustrated Fox’s blatant disregard for the Brain Room’s findings
According to reporting from The Daily Beast in 2020, Fox News Brain Room senior political affairs specialist Bryan S. Murphy produced a 162-page document titled “Ukraine, Disinformation, & the Trump Administration.” The report criticized commentary coming from the network’s own contributors and guests regarding Ukraine’s supposed interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Such guests included Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Republican attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, and conservative writer and Fox contributor John Solomon. The briefing notes that throughout his frequent appearances on Fox News, “Solomon played an indispensable role in the collection and domestic publication of elements of this disinformation campaign.” The article goes on to note that “despite Solomon’s reputation for questionable claims, he continued to be a fixture on Fox News.”
Murphy’s document was also highly critical of host Sean Hannity for platforming guests like Solomon and Giuliani without properly vetting them. Despite this, Fox responded not by punishing Hannity, but rather by “grant[ing] him fewer restraints and more exposure” with a high-profile interview with then-President Donald Trump at the Superbowl.
Murphy and the Brain Room even cited Media Matters’ research as a part of its report. The internal memo included a statistic from Media Matters which shows that Solomon “published 45 columns aimed at discrediting the Russia investigation, 12 of which focused primarily on Ukraine.”
The Dominion lawsuit’s new revelations about Fox’s Brain Room once again prove that, as Media Matters' John Whitehouse writes, “it’s possible to do journalism at Fox News. It is not possible, apparently, to get that journalism to an audience outside the building.”