How do you solve a problem like María Bartiromo’s?
Fox News executives may be asking that question as he emerges as a central figure in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the conservative news network.
In released court papers and deposition testimony related to the case, Bartiromo is cited as allowing former President Trump’s false claims about 2020 voter fraud to air online in an effort to prevent angry viewers from leaving the show. grid.
Falsehoods such as the claim that the Denver-based voting machine maker was founded in Venezuela to help Hugo Chavez and that its software rigged votes to favor President Biden went unchallenged online in the weeks after the election. despite evidence to the contrary.
Court testimony shows that in the days leading up to and after the 2020 election, colleagues and executives asked questions about Bartiromo’s online activity and raised concerns that he was influenced by right-wing conspiracy theorists.
Bartiromo’s texts, which appeared in court documents released Tuesday, said she was “depressed” by the results of the election won by President Biden and hoped that fraud would be discovered that would reverse the result.
“I want to see massive fraud exposed. Can (Trump) change this? I told my team that we can’t say preselect. Not in dashes. Not on air banners. Until this goes through the courts,” Bartiromo said in a text message to disgraced Trump aide Steve Bannon, who was convicted in July on contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the Trump insurrection. January 6 at the US Capitol
“You are our fighter. Enough of sadness. We need you,” responded Bannon, who then urged Bartiromo to run for the United States Senate seat held by Charles E. Schumer of New York.
On November 5, 2020, two days after the election, Washington anchor Bret Baier warned Jay Wallace, who oversees newsgathering at Fox News, that Bartiromo had been pushing false claims about the election.
Gary Schreier, a producer who has worked with Bartiromo since 2012, told his bosses that Bartiromo was influenced by more extreme Trump supporters.
“The problem is that she has (Republican Party) conspiracy theorists in her ear and sometimes they use her for their messages,” Schreier said in a text message to Lauren Petterson, who oversees Fox Business Network.
That same day, Wallace was told that Bartiromo was sharing conspiracy theories about Dominion on the right-wing social networking site Parler, to which he replied: “I don’t know why she invites this.”
When Schreier flagged a tweet by Bartiromo that espoused conspiracy theories for Petterson, he suggested that Bartiromo should “get off social (media) entirely.” Schreier agreed, noting that Bartiromo was “talking crazy” online.
In his statement, Schreier said his comments were prompted by concerns that Bartiromo was straying too far from financial news and that coverage of divisive political issues would scare off advertisers from his show.
Dominion claims that Fox News acted malice by recklessly ignoring the truth when it laid out the allegations against the company, stoking the emotions that led Trump supporters to storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Fox News maintains that its reporting and comments were protected by the First Amendment because allegations made by a sitting president are newsworthy, even if they are false.
Bartiromo is one of four Fox News and Fox Business Network personalities named in the lawsuit along with Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs, who is no longer with the company. Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has admitted under oath that they all promoted false claims about the 2020 election, which he believed were fair.
But the difference with Bartiromo is that she identifies as a news anchor, as she indicated in her testimony.
Hannity, Dobbs and Pirro are considered opinion anchors, and Fox News executives testified that they are not held to the same journalistic standards as mainstream news shows.
Schreier said that Fox News talk shows are not required to correct falsehoods stated on their shows. Another Fox News executive, David Clark, told the court that Hannity, the network’s longest-running primetime star, is not a credible news source.
Bartiromo, 55, came to Fox News with a stellar track record as a tireless financial journalist forged over 20 years at CNBC. She was a respected trailblazer, being the first woman to report from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. She joined Fox News in 2013 for an annual salary of $5 million.
Bartiromo is on the air for 15 1/2 hours a week on Fox Business Network as the host of “Mornings with Maria” and has the highest-rated Sunday morning show on Fox News with “Sunday Morning Futures.”
The host mainly spoke to CEOs about their business shows, but became more political after moving to Fox News. Her conservative views of her became more apparent and Murdoch is said to love her.
Bartiromo did not respond to a request for comment.
Ahead of a court hearing Tuesday, Fox News attorneys filed new emails intended to show Bartiromo did not act with malice because he did not know whether the allegations made by attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani on Fox News were true or false. and that he had doubts. the legitimacy of the 2020 elections.
Court documents filed by Fox News included comments made in a December 2020 email by Nicole Beckman, then an associate at Dominion’s public relations firm Hamilton Place Strategies. Beckman said Bartiromo “hasn’t made any statements that appear to have a strong case for defamation because she’s always careful to quote other people (‘a published report says…’) or not to mention Dominion specifically. She lets her guests make defamatory statements.”
Bartiromo testified that no one in management did anything to stop her or force her to correct the record. As Bartiromo spent time on the story, top executives, reporters and even Fox News stars like Tucker Carlson and Dana Perino were saying privately that Trump’s claims were false and questioning the sanity of Powell and Giuliani.
Carlson, the most popular and outspoken conservative torchbearer on Fox News, was particularly eager to get away from Trump, saying in a text message: “I passionately hate him.”
Much of the deposition testimony related to Bartiromo focuses on the appearances of Powell and Giuliani. The duo were given a platform in front of the “Sunday Morning Futures” audience of nearly 2 million viewers per week, where they amplified Trump’s false election claims.
Bartiromo herself made misstatements, including repeating inaccurate claims that Dominion was owned by voting software company Smartmatic, which is also suing Fox News and other conservative networks for defamation.
In his statement, Bartiromo said he still doesn’t know if the many charges against Dominion on his show were true or false.
He said he repeatedly asked Powell and Giuliani when they would provide evidence to back up their claims and stopped after they ran out of evidence.
But several Fox News executives in their testimony agreed with Dominion’s assertions that Bartiromo did not dispute any of Powell’s false statements when he appeared on “Sunday Morning Futures.” Bartiromo also admitted that he never presented any evidence to counter Powell’s claims, despite Dominion and other Fox News journalists providing him with the correct information.
Abby Grossberg, Bartiromo’s lead booking producer at the time, was asked in court if she believed “Sunday Morning Futures” had an obligation to correct false information submitted by her guests. Her answer was “no,” a surprising admission, since Sunday morning political shows are traditionally where viewers expect to see government officials held to account.
Bartiromo also testified that he did not feel he needed to independently investigate his guests’ claims before bringing them.
While correcting guests in real time can be challenging, Dominion argued that Fox News could have removed misinformation for repeat broadcasts. But the programs were repeated without change.
On Tuesday, Fox News lawyers sought to mitigate the evidence against the network and Bartiromo by submitting to the court emails between the anchor and Tony Fratto, another Hamilton Place Strategies executive and a former spokesman for the George W. Bush administration.
Fratto, who had a cordial relationship with Bartiromo, sent a message after his interview with Giuliani.
“What Rudy is saying is verifiably false, and the same for Sidney Powell: It’s tinfoil hat conspiracy stuff,” Fratto said. “And I think they need a strong push with facts. I’m not saying you should ignore history, but Rudy is literally making things up as he goes along.”
An email response from Bartiromo asked: “Are you saying I shouldn’t cover a sitting president running in a presidential election? Should I just let it go and go with the rest of the media? . . ?”
“I’m not saying you should ignore history. . .” Fratto said.
Bartiromo offered to have Dominion’s CEO on his show and read a lengthy statement from the company on his show on November 20, 2020.
Fratto’s deposition testimony said his attempt to get Bartiromo to stop signing Giuliani and Powell had no impact.
He later wrote to Wallace, hoping to embarrass the network by comparing it to its new competitor Newsmax.
A Fox News court report said that having some people in the organization reject Trump’s claims did not mean that those who believed them acted maliciously in making them.
“It is not unusual for some people in a newsroom (with the various political views one would expect) to disbelieve the allegations and hope that they will ultimately turn out to be false, while others will keep an open mind in the hope that they are. certain”.