In a significant development, Fox News has agreed to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems to settle the defamation lawsuit that was filed by the latter. The suit was filed due to repeated false claims by Fox News regarding Dominion’s involvement in rigging the U.S. Presidential election. This settlement marks the end of one recent most closely-watched media case. It prevented a potentially much costlier outcome for Fox and its parent company, Fox Corp., had the case gone to trial.
While Fox News has agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million to settle the defamation lawsuit, the agreement does not come without controversy. Dominion had initially sought damages of $1.6 billion, and multiple pretrial rulings had bolstered its claims. The settlement amount is the largest publicly disclosed monetary settlement in an American defamation action. Fox has reluctantly acknowledged that it was wrong to repeatedly air false statements supporting Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud following the 2020 election.
Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5m, ending the high-profile lawsuit against the network. The lawsuit was filed by Dominion, which was repeatedly accused of manipulating the 2020 U.S. presidential election by Fox News hosts and guests.#FoxNews #FoxNewsTrial pic.twitter.com/Wjx9yeI4sS
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) April 19, 2023
Fox News Settles Dominion Lawsuit and Acknowledges False Claims
Many of Fox’s hosts and guests had depicted Dominion as a central player in a conspiracy to manipulate votes in favor of Joe Biden. Despite the settlement, there are still questions surrounding Fox’s coverage of the election and its role in promoting unfounded claims of fraud. Fox News acknowledged that specific allegations made about Dominion were false.
The cable network indicated it would no longer contest Dominion’s allegations in court and expressed its commitment to upholding the highest journalistic standards. Instead of pursuing a divisive trial, Fox resolved the dispute with Dominion amicably. The hope is that the settlement will enable the country to move forward from these issues.
In a dramatic turn of events, a last-minute settlement deal was struck between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems just as a jury was selected to hear the case in a Delaware superior court. The trial would have taken place in President Biden’s home state. Following the announcement of the settlement, Dominion’s lawyer, Justin Nelson, spoke outside the courthouse and emphasized the importance of truth and the consequences of spreading lies. Nelson stated that the settlement agreement is a resounding endorsement of truth and democracy.
The settlement between Dominion Voting Systems and Fox News concludes an embarrassing episode for the news network and its chairman, media mogul Rupert Murdoch. During the pretrial discovery phase, which involved releasing many emails, texts, and other forms of communication, Dominion demonstrated that Murdoch and Fox’s executives and producers knew that Donald Trump’s allegations of election interference were dubious. Despite this knowledge, they allowed Fox’s hosts and guests to propagate these falsehoods to retain viewership and prevent them from switching to rival networks.
Rupert Murdoch Settles with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 Million
Despite being scheduled to give testimony during the trial, Rupert Murdoch did not take the stand. In a deposition, he admitted that he did not believe Donald Trump’s accusations of election fraud. Nevertheless, Murdoch chose not to intervene as popular Fox hosts, including Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro, continually attacked Dominion on-air.
Despite being aware of the falsehoods aired on its network, Fox News prioritized retaining viewership over journalistic integrity. In the defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, the company was poised to present evidence that Fox knew it was broadcasting lies and that this knowledge had caused concern among network executives.
With a potentially damaging and lengthy trial on the horizon, Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox, seemingly decided to settle with Dominion for the staggering sum of $787.5 million to avoid the risk of an adverse outcome and further reputational harm. It’s still being determined if the $787.5 million settlement Fox News agreed to pay Dominion is truly the largest amount ever awarded in a defamation case, as many settlements are confidential.
According to defamation attorney Charles Harder, the evidence Dominion was prepared to present at trial may have made Fox News “terrified” to face a jury. Some First Amendment advocates praised the settlement as a rare example of financial liability imposed on a media outlet for knowingly spreading misinformation. These advocates argued that Fox’s actions went beyond what is typically protected under the high bar set by courts to prove defamation.
Settlement Terms and Announcement
Katie Fallow, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said that the evidence gathered by Dominion suggested that Fox had crossed the line from reporting on the “Big Lie” to actively spreading false information. According to two insiders, the settlement agreement between Fox News and Dominion does not require the former to issue an on-air correction or apology.
Instead, the network’s statement was read on air by Howard Kurtz, a Fox media reporter who covered the trial and attended the court hearing. During his appearance, Kurtz referred to the false claims made on Fox in the wake of the 2020 election as “obviously false” and “conspiracy theories.”
A Dominion spokeswoman explained that accountability was the main concern and that the settlement held Fox accountable without needing an apology. As a result of the settlement, Fox admitted to making false statements about Dominion and paid a significant settlement.
However, the resolution of the Dominion case does not signify the end of Fox’s legal woes related to the 2020 election. Fox still faces a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting-tech firm. The Dominion settlement may lead to a settlement with Smartmatic, which has made similar allegations to Dominion.
Rupert Murdoch and Fox have a pattern of settling cases out of court to avoid public scrutiny. The Dominion settlement follows a string of settlements over the past 13 years that have neared $750 million. Fox paid $50 million to settle sexual harassment allegations against former CEO Roger Ailes and former host Bill O’Reilly. In addition, other Murdoch-owned entities have paid over $100 million to phone hacking victims.