Dominion Voting Systems is out for blood in its libel suit against Fox News.
The company is suing Rupert Murdoch’s network for $1.6 billion in damages, saying the mogul and his top lieutenants knew former President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election were false, but they continued reporting to appease viewers and increase ratings.
To prevail, Dominion’s lawyers must prove that the network acted maliciously by knowingly spreading false information.
Fox News claims its reporting and commentary was protected by the First Amendment because allegations of a sitting president are newsworthy even if they are false. The network’s coverage falsely accused Dominion of using his machines to rig votes to throw the election to Joe Biden and of being owned and controlled by the Venezuelan government.
Dominion has filed two legal documents exposing internal discussions showing that some Fox News personalities, executives, and even Murdoch himself disbelieved Trump’s claims, but still gave his lawyers and supporters a forum to spread their baseless theories because they were concerned made about declining viewing figures. The instructions contained a stunning testimony from Murdoch, who admitted that he knew that some of the statements made by his personalities and guests on the broadcast were false.
This is the next in the case, which will go to court in mid-April.
How strong is Dominion’s argument against Fox News?
Many First Amendment lawyers said Dominion has provided very compelling evidence of Fox News malice, which poses a significant threat to the network if it goes to court, they said.
“Overall, I believe this is one of the strongest plaintiffs’ cases I’ve ever seen,” said attorney Lee Levine, who has litigated 1st Amendment matters for 40 years. “It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where Fox wins in front of a jury.”
Andrew Geronimo, director of the 1st Amendment Clinic at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said he was surprised by the evidence and believes Fox News is in an unenviable position as a defendant. Dominion’s motion cited numerous instances of Fox News insiders bluntly challenging the veracity of Trump’s claims.
“Usually, discovering actual malice is all about inferences to things, what should have been discovered and what could have been overlooked,” Geronimo said. “It’s usually not as stark as ‘this is BS.’ From a lawyer’s perspective, I get a cold sweat reading this.”
Fox News has said that Dominion’s motions “took an extreme, unsupported position on the defamation law that would prevent journalists from doing basic reporting.”
Fox News has argued in its motion for summary judgment that the damages Dominion wants are excessive because they are far away greater than that of the maker of the voting machine estimated valuation. Fox also quotes comments through a dominion managerial suggest that her business was not harmed by the media coverage. Shall That argumentS work?
Levine and other attorneys believe Fox’s motion is designed to get Dominion to agree to a settlement less than the $1.6 billion amount in the lawsuit.
“The order from Fox is meant to say, ‘You’re not entitled to $1.6 billion, that’s really ridiculous. Let’s talk in a more reasonable range,'” Levine said. to file a lawsuit on that matter.”
Fox News — knowing the impact of making embarrassing private communications public — may also be trying to limit the financial damage it takes if it loses in court, Levine added.
(In a statement, Fox News called the damages claim “outrageous” and a “naked attempt to suppress legitimate speech protected by our Constitution.”)
People inside Fox say privately that there are no signs of a settlement nearby.
Is there a chance that the judge will pronounce summary judgment for both parties?
Highly unlikely, as such a decision would have to be based on undisputed facts. “This is a classic case where reasonable people can differ on these facts,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. “This is full of factual disputes. It should go to a jury.”
Will the disclosure in the motions filed Through Dominion has hurt so far Fox news’ reputation among his viewers?
The question is how many Fox News viewers actually find out about the case. While other news organizations devote significant time and space to the story, Fox News has yet to report on it. Howard Kurtz, the network’s longtime media analyst, told viewers Sunday that the company had told him not to discuss or write about the Dominion case, a decision he disagrees with but obeys. Fox News has spent so much time over the years discrediting other news organizations that loyal Trump-loving viewers might dismiss any report they hear as fake news.
But a slow trickle of story after story in other outlets could erode the network’s credibility among the political independents and Democrats watching (Nielsen data shows they are there). At some point, those viewers may want the network to speak out and present its side.
Fox News has not commented on how it plans to report on the matter.
Will advertisers react negatively to Fox news’ behaviour?
Some sponsors are already avoiding Fox News op-eds that they feel are too polarizing and controversial for their brands, and this situation won’t help.
But what could be much more problematic over time is the revelation of Dominion’s legal letter that Murdoch shared information about President Biden’s advertising strategy with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, during the 2020 election campaign. (Biden’s campaign bought commercials on Fox News.)
That could make Democratic campaigns less likely to spend money on Fox News in the future. It could also spell a pause for Democratic candidates spending big dollars to advertise on other Murdoch media properties, such as the Fox broadcast network and the company’s television stations, which rely heavily on political advertising dollars during presidential and midterm election years.