Fox President Rupert Murdoch dismissed election conspiracy theories, Dominion trial documents show

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A trove of text messages, emails and other documents from Fox News executives and on-air personalities were made public Tuesday in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the right string.

Among the hundreds of pages of never-before-seen documents are repeated statements by Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch dismissing the Dominion conspiracy theories his own network promoted after the 2020 election. And internal Fox emails and messages News – also released on Tuesday – further shows how Fox News staff privately dismissed some of the campaign conspiracies that were promoted on air.

Dominion alleged in its lawsuit that during the 2020 presidential election, the right-wing chat channel “recklessly ignored the truth” and pushed various pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theories about the election tech company because “the lies were good for Fox’s business”.

In a statement Tuesday, Fox News accused Dominion of distortions, misinformation and misquoting in an attempt to “smear Fox News and trample free speech and freedom of the press.”

Dominion said on Tuesday that “the emails, texts and deposition evidence speak for themselves.”

“We welcome any careful scrutiny of our evidence, because it all leads to one place – Fox knowingly spread lies causing enormous damage to an American company,” Dominion said.

In a January deposition, Murdoch dismissed Dominion conspiracy theories, according to a transcript of his deposition released Tuesday.

“Do you believe Dominion was engaged in a massive, coordinated effort to steal the 2020 presidential election?” Murdoch was interviewed by Dominion lawyers.

“No,” Murdoch replied.

“Have you ever seen credible evidence to suggest that Dominion was engaged in a massive, coordinated effort to steal the 2020 presidential election?” insisted the Dominion lawyer.

“No,” Murdoch replied.

“Did you ever believe Dominion was engaged in a massive, coordinated effort to steal the 2020 presidential election?” asked the Dominion lawyer.

“No,” Murdoch replied.

“You never believed that Dominion was involved in an effort to delegitimize and destroy votes for Donald Trump, did you?” asked the Dominion lawyer.

“I am open to persuasion; but no, I’ve never seen it,” Murdoch replied.

The hundreds of pages of new documents released Tuesday include never-before-seen excerpts from key depositions, including Murdoch, and are part of Dominion’s libel lawsuit against Fox News.

Fox News denies any wrongdoing and says the judge is expected to rule the case in favor before it even goes to trial, which is scheduled for next month in Delaware.

In November 2020 posts, then-Fox Business host Lou Dobbs asked producer John Fawcett what he thought of a recent lawsuit filed by Sidney Powell to try to overturn the 2020 election.

“It’s complete,” Fawcett replied, according to court documents released Tuesday. “I can’t believe it was the kraken,” he added, referring to the phrase Powell used to describe the baseless lawsuits she filed across the country.

Dobbs was one of the most notorious on-air promoters of Powell conspiracy theories related to Dominion and the 2020 election before his show was canceled in February 2021.

Additionally, shortly after the 2020 election, Fox News host Tucker Carlson acknowledged that Powell was not telling the truth.

According to a court filing released Tuesday, Carlson told an unknown number on Nov. 17, 2020 that “Sidney Powell is lying” and called it an expletive.

More than a month after the 2020 election, Bill Sammon, then editor of Fox News DC, denounced the network’s coverage of false election claims in private messages to a colleague, fearing it was turning into a “crisis existential” for the right channel.

“More than 20 minutes into our flagship evening news show and we are still solely focused on alleged voter fraud – a month into the election,” Sammon wrote to then-politics editor Chris Stirewalt. “It’s remarkable how low ratings cause good journalists to do bad things.”

Stirewalt replied, “it’s a real mess.”

The posts were among hundreds of pages of documents released Tuesday in Dominion Voting Systems’ libel lawsuit against Fox News. (The network denies any wrongdoing.)

“In my 22 years with Fox, this is the closest thing I’ve seen to an existential crisis — at least journalistically,” Sammon said.

“What’s most concerning is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of conflict,” Stirewalt said.

“What I see us doing is losing the silent majority of viewers as we chase nuts off a cliff,” Sammon replied.

Both men, Sammon and Stirewalt, left the company in early 2021.

The Dominion lawsuit is one of two separate cases brought by voting tech companies against Fox News that collectively seek $4.3 billion in damages, posing a serious threat to the highly profitable branch of the Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. Fox News not only strenuously denied those claims, but insisted it was “proud” of its 2020 election coverage.

Recent court filings in the Dominion case offered the most vivid picture yet of the chaos that unfolded behind the scenes at Fox News after Trump lost the election.

The documents unearthed communications revealing that top stars – Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham – and top executives privately dismissed allegations of fraud in the 2020 election, despite the fact that the network allows the promotion of lies about the contest on its airwaves. .

In a particularly damaging admission revealed in the case last month, Murdoch admitted that several Fox News hosts endorsed false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

“They approved,” Murdoch said, referring to Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo and former host Lou Dobbs.

“Some of our commentators approved of it,” he said, when asked about the on-air positions of the conference hosts on the election. “I wish we were stronger to denounce it, with hindsight,” he added.

In his deposition, Murdoch also acknowledged that it was “wrong” that Carlson welcomed election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell to his program after the presidential race.

Fox defended the actions of its executives and hosts in its own legal filings against Dominion’s lawsuit, alleging that its hosts’ on-air claims of voter fraud were taken out of context.

“Dominion’s motion for summary judgment is flawed from top to bottom and should be dismissed in its entirety,” Fox News attorneys wrote in a filing last month.

And Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, alleged that Dominion “produced no evidence for its dubious theory that senior Fox Corporation executives ‘chose to publish and broadcast’ or played a game.” direct role in creating and publishing “false election lies.

While the First Amendment sets a high bar for libel cases brought against the media, a protection that was bolstered in the landmark 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan, legal experts tell CNN that the Dominion case seemed exceptionally strong.

“It’s a blow,” noted First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams said of Dominion’s evidence presented last month, adding that the “recent revelations have certainly put Fox in a more precarious position” to stand up. defend against the lawsuit based on the First Amendment.

Rebecca Tushnet, Frank Stanton professor of First Amendment law at Harvard Law School, described Dominion’s evidence as a “very strong” case that “clearly establishes the difference between what Fox said publicly and what senior Fox officials admitted in private”.

Tushnet said that in her years of practicing and teaching law, she had never seen such damning evidence gathered in the preliminary phase of a defamation lawsuit.

– CNN’s Nicki Brown, Kate Trafecante and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report


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