Dover, Del. — Fox Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that some Fox News commentators endorsed the false allegations by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that he didn't step in to stop them from promoting the claims, according to excerpts of a deposition unsealed Monday.The claims and the company's handling of them are at the heart of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the cable news giant by Dominion Voting Systems. The recently unsealed documents include excerpts from a deposition in which Murdoch was asked about whether he was aware that some of the network's commentators - Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity - at times endorsed the false election claims. Murdoch replied, "Yes. They endorsed." The Murdoch deposition is the latest filing in the defamation case to reveal concerns at the top-rated network over how it was handling Trump's claims as its ratings plummeted after the network called Arizona for Joe Biden, angering Trump and his supporters. An earlier filing showed a gulf between the stolen election narrative the network was airing in primetime and doubts about the claims raised by its stars behind the scenes. In one text, from Nov. 16, 2020, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said "Sidney Powell is lying" about having evidence for election fraud, referring to one of Trump's lawyers. The Dominion case is the latest example showing that those who were spreading false information about the 2020 election knew there was no evidence to support it. The now-disbanded House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol disclosed that many of Trump's top advisers repeatedly warned him that the allegations he was making about fraud were false - and yet the president continued making the claims. Murdoch urged in September 2020, weeks before the election, that Dobbs be fired because he was "an extremist," according to Dominion's court filing. Murdoch also said he thought it was "really bad" for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to be advising Trump because Giuliani's "judgment was bad" and he was "an extreme partisan," according to a deposition excerpt. Murdoch was asked whether he could have requested that Powell and Giuliani not be put on the air: "I could have. But I didn't," he replied.After the Jan. 6 rioting at the Capitol, former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who sits on the board of Fox News Corporation, had an email exchange with Murdoch. He told the Fox News chairman he believed that "some high percentage of Americans" thought the election was stolen "because they got a diet of information telling them the election was stolen from what they believe were credible sources." Murdoch responded to Ryan's email with a note saying, "Thanks Paul. Wake-up call for Hannity, who has been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers." Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, which sells electronic voting hardware and software, is suing both Fox News Network and parent company Fox Corp. for defamation. Dominion contends that some Fox News employees deliberately amplified false claims by supporters of Trump that Dominion machines had changed votes in the 2020 election, and that Fox provided a platform for guests to make false and defamatory statements about the company. Dominion attorneys contend that executives in the "chain of command" at both Fox News and Fox Corp. knew the network was broadcasting "known lies, had the power to stop it, but chose to let it continue. That was wrong, and for that, FC and FNN are both liable." Attorneys for Fox Corp. note in their filing that Murdoch also testified that he never discussed Dominion or voter fraud with any of the accused Fox News hosts. They say Dominion has produced "zero evidentiary support" for the claim that high-level executives at Fox Corp. had any role in creating or publishing the statements at issue. Dominion's contention that the company should be held liable because Murdoch might have had the power to step in and prevent the challenged statements from being aired, they said, "has no basis in defamation law, would obliterate the distinction between corporate parents and subsidiaries, and finds no support in the evidence." The "handful of selective quotes" cited by Dominion have nothing to do with the statements that Dominion has challenged as defamatory, according to Fox Corp. attorneys. "Dominion repeatedly asked Fox News executives, hosts, and staff whether Fox Corporation employees played a role in the publication of the statements it challenges," they wrote. "The answer - every single time, for every single witness - was no." Meanwhile, Fox News attorneys note that when voting-technology companies denied the allegations being made by Trump and his surrogates, Fox News aired those denials, while some Fox News hosts offered protected opinion commentary about Trump's allegations.
Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the election in 2020 was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, court documents released on Monday showed. "They endorsed," Murdoch said under oath in response to direct questions about the hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, a legal filing by Dominion Voting Systems said. "I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight." Murdoch's remarks, which he made last month as part of the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox by Dominion, added to the evidence that Dominion has accumulated in an attempt to prove its central allegation: The people running the country's most popular news network knew Trump's claims of voter fraud during the 2020 election were false but broadcast them anyway. The new documents and a similar batch released this month revealed that top executives and on-air hosts reacted with incredulity bordering on contempt to the various fictitious allegations about Dominion, including that a secret algorithm in its machines allowed votes to be switched from one candidate to another and that the company was founded in Venezuela to help that country's longtime leader, Hugo Chávez, fix elections. Dominion's latest filing also described how Paul Ryan, a former Republican speaker of the House and current member of the Fox Corporation board of directors, said in his deposition that he had told Murdoch and Murdoch's son Lachlan, the chief executive officer, "Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories." Ryan suggested that the network pivot and "move on from Donald Trump and stop spouting election lies." The filing casts Murdoch as a chairman who was both deeply engaged with his senior leadership about coverage of the election and operating at somewhat of a remove, unwilling to interfere. Asked by Dominion's lawyer, Justin Nelson, whether he could have ordered Fox News to keep Trump lawyers like Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani off the air, Murdoch responded: "I could have. But I didn't." The filing helps fill in the broader case against Fox News and its corporate parent, Fox Corporation, that Dominion lawyers hope to present to a jury in April, when a Delaware judge has scheduled the trial to begin. A Fox News spokeswoman said on Monday in response to the filing that Dominion's view of defamation law took "an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting." Since Dominion sued in early 2021, it has argued that Fox chose ratings and profit over its journalistic obligation to tell viewers the truth. Using text messages and emails sent by Fox employees and prominent hosts like Hannity and Tucker Carlson in the weeks after the election, Dominion has pieced together a dramatic account from inside the network, depicting a frantic scramble to woo back viewers after ratings collapsed. On election night, Fox News was the first news outlet to declare Joe Biden the winner of Arizona — effectively projecting that he would become the next president. With Trump refusing to concede that he had lost, he and his supporters turned against Fox, and the network's ratings fell. Soon, many of the most popular hosts and shows on Fox began promoting the outlandish claims that Dominion machines were an integral part of a far-reaching voter fraud conspiracy to deny Trump a second term. The filing on Monday also included a deposition by Viet Dinh, Fox's chief legal officer. After Hannity told his audience on Nov. 5, 2020, that it would be "impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results," Dinh said, he remarked to Lachlan Murdoch; the chief executive of Fox News Media, Suzanne Scott; and Fox's top communications officer, Irena Briganti: "Hannity is getting awfully close to the line with his commentary and guests tonight." In his deposition, Dinh, when asked if Fox executives had an obligation to stop hosts of shows from broadcasting lies, said: "Yes, to prevent and correct known falsehoods." Lawyers for Fox, which filed its response to Dominion in court on Monday, have argued that its broadcasts after the election did not amount to defamation because they were protected under the First Amendment. In court filings, Fox has defended its commentary and reporting as the kind of work that any journalistic outfit would do by covering events and newsmakers that are indisputably newsworthy. "A reasonable viewer would have readily understood that hosts were not espousing the President's allegations themselves, but were providing a forum for the principal architects of those legal challenges," Fox lawyers said in a brief filed this month. If its broadcasts did not present any of the fraud allegations as true, the network has argued, "there is no potential for defamation at all." Ultimately, the case is likely to revolve around questions about the intent of Fox hosts when they gave pro-Trump election deniers like Powell and Giuliani a platform and, in many cases, mustered no pushback as their guests falsely and repeatedly implicated Dominion in a plot to disenfranchise tens of millions of Trump voters. Fox lawyers have pointed to instances on the air when hosts did challenge these claims and pressed Powell and Giuliani to present evidence that never materialized. At other times, Fox has argued, the hosts were plainly expressing their opinions, or used language that was "loose" and "figurative" and therefore protected under the First Amendment. But Dominion has said the actions of Fox hosts including Carlson, Hannity, Bartiromo and Dobbs — and the producers and executives overseeing their programs — were anything but a dispassionate recitation of newsworthy claims of fraud. Rather, Dominion has argued, the internal communications it has uncovered point to how Fox employees behaved with "actual malice" — the legal standard required to prove defamation. There are two ways to meet that high legal bar, by showing that defendants either knew what they were saying was false or acted with such haste and disregard for the truth that they overlooked obvious facts to the contrary. In a brief filed in court this month, Dominion lawyers revealed private text messages and emails that showed hosts including Carlson repeatedly insulting and mocking Trump advisers like Powell. "Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It's insane," Carlson wrote on Nov. 18, 2020, to Laura Ingraham, who hosts the prime-time Fox News show that airs after his. Ingraham responded: "Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy." Carlson continued, "Our viewers are good people and they believe it," making it clear that he did not.
Rupert Murdoch testified that Fox News hosts ‘endorsed’ stolen election narrativeNetwork owner also admitted in $1.6bn defamation lawsuit deposition that Trump’s claims were ‘damaging to everybody’Newly released court documents reveal that Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire owner of Fox News, acknowledged under oath that several Fox News hosts endorsed Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.The mogul made the admission during a deposition in the $1.6bn defamation lawsuit brought against the network by the voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems, which has accused Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corporation, of maligning its reputation. In his deposition, Murdoch said that the hosts Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro “endorsed” the false narrative promoted by Trump.Will a $1.6bn defamation lawsuit finally stop Fox News from spreading lies? | Margaret SullivanRead more“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” Murdoch said in the deposition, the New York Times reported on Monday.In previous court filings, attorneys for Dominion have argued that Fox News hosts ridiculed Trump’s false claims of a “stolen election” while promoting those lies on television. While Sean Hannity pushed that narrative on his prime-time show, he allegedly wrote that Trump was “acting like an insane person”.Even Murdoch himself dismissed Trump’s claims, describing the former president’s obsession with proving the election was stolen as “terrible stuff damaging everybody”.Murdoch acknowledged in his deposition that he could have ordered the network not to platform Trump lawyers such as Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani on its programs: “I could have. But I didn’t,” he said.Dominion’s defamation case is being described as a “landmark”. A Harvard law professor recently told the Guardian he had “never seen a defamation case with such overwhelming proof that the defendant admitted in writing that it was making up fake information in order to increase its viewership and its revenues”.How Dominion Voting Systems filing proves Fox News was ‘deliberately lying’Read moreThe Fox hosts were also privately critical of members of Trump’s team, including Sidney Powell, an attorney who claimed that Dominion’s machines had changed votes cast for Trump to Joe Biden. In a deposition, Hannity said: “That whole narrative that Sidney was pushing, I did not believe it for one second”.Still, the network continued to give coverage to proponents of the election fraud narrative as it feared upsetting its viewers. In a conversation about the network’s coverage of the issue on 5 January 2020 – a day before rioters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to stop the election from being certified - Suzanne Scott, the Fox News media chief executive, and Murdoch debated whether Fox hosts should acknowledge Trump’s defeat and admit that Biden won. “We need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers,” Scott told Murdoch.Dominion sued Fox News and parent company Fox Corporation in March 2021 and November 2021 in Delaware superior court, alleging the cable TV network amplified false claims that Dominion voting machines were used to rig the 2020 election against Trump, a Republican who lost to Democratic rival Biden. Dominion’s motion for summary judgment was replete with emails and statements in which Murdoch and other top Fox executives say the claims made about Dominion on air were false – part of the voting machine company’s effort to prove the network either knew the statements it aired were false or recklessly disregarded their accuracy.In its own filing made public on Monday, Fox argued that its coverage of statements by Trump and his lawyers were inherently newsworthy and that Dominion’s “extreme” interpretation of defamation law would “stop the media in its tracks”.Reuters reported that a Fox spokesperson said that Dominion’s view of defamation law “would prevent journalists from basic reporting”.A trial is scheduled to begin in mid-April.Reuters contributed reportingTopicsRupert MurdochFox NewsUS elections 2020Donald TrumpUS politicsTV newsTelevision industrynewsReuse this content
Rupert Murdoch, the conservative media mogul, spoke under oath last month in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems.Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, and that he could have stopped them but didn’t, court documents released on Monday showed.“They endorsed,” Mr. Murdoch said under oath in response to direct questions about the Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, according to a legal filing by Dominion Voting Systems. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” he added, while also disclosing that he was always dubious of Mr. Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.Asked whether he doubted Mr. Trump, Mr. Murdoch responded: “Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up.” At the same time, he rejected the accusation that Fox News as a whole had endorsed the stolen election narrative. “Not Fox,” he said. “No. Not Fox.”Mr. Murdoch’s remarks, which he made last month as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, added to the evidence that Dominion has accumulated as it tries to prove its central allegation: The people running the country’s most popular news network knew Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election were false but broadcast them anyway in a reckless pursuit of ratings and profit.Proof to that effect would help Dominion clear the high legal bar set by the Supreme Court for defamation cases. To prevail, Dominion must show not only that Fox broadcast false information, but that it did so knowingly. A judge in Delaware state court has scheduled a monthlong trial beginning in April.The new documents and a similar batch released this month provide a dramatic account from inside the network, depicting a frantic scramble as Fox tried to woo back its large conservative audience after ratings collapsed in the wake of Mr. Trump’s loss. Fox had been the first network to call Arizona for Joseph R. Biden on election night — essentially declaring him the next president. When Mr. Trump refused to concede and started attacking Fox as disloyal and dishonest, viewers began to change the channel.The filings also revealed that top executives and on-air hosts had reacted with incredulity bordering on contempt to various fictitious allegations about Dominion. These included unsubstantiated rumors — repeatedly uttered by guests and hosts of Fox programs — that its voting machines could run a secret algorithm that switched votes from one candidate to another, and that the company was founded in Venezuela to help that country’s longtime leader, Hugo Chávez, fix elections.Read What Murdoch Said in His Deposition in the Fox-Dominion CaseRupert Murdoch made his remarks last month as part of the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems.Read DocumentDespite those misgivings, little changed about the content on shows like Mr. Dobbs’s and Ms. Bartiromo’s. For weeks after the election, viewers of Fox News and Fox Business heard a far different story from the one that Fox executives privately conceded was real.Lawyers for Fox News, which filed a response to Dominion in court on Monday, argued that its commentary and reporting after the election did not amount to defamation because its hosts had not endorsed the falsehoods about Dominion, even if Mr. Murdoch stated otherwise in his deposition. As such, the network’s lawyers argued, Fox’s coverage was protected under the First Amendment.Fox News v. Dominion Voter SystemsA $1.6 Billion Suit: A defamation lawsuit by the voting machine maker Dominion seeks to hold Fox News responsible for false claims after the 2020 election. Here’s what to know about the case so far.Rupert Murdoch’s Deposition: The conservative media mogul acknowledged under oath that several Fox hosts promoted the false narrative that the election was stolen. Read his deposition.Privately Expressing Disbelief: Dozens of text messages released in the lawsuit show how Fox hosts went from privately criticizing election fraud claims to giving them significant airtime.“Far from reporting the allegations as true, hosts informed their audiences at every turn that the allegations were just allegations that would need to be proven in court in short order if they were going to impact the outcome of the election,” Fox lawyers said in their filing. “And to the extent some hosts commented on the allegations, that commentary is independently protected opinion.”A Fox News spokeswoman said on Monday in response to the filing that Dominion’s case “has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal scrutiny.” She added that the company had taken “an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting.”In certain instances, Fox hosts did present the allegations as unproven and offered their opinions. And Fox lawyers have pointed to exchanges on the air when hosts challenged these claims and pressed Mr. Trump’s lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani to present evidence that never materialized.But the case is also likely to revolve around questions about what people with the power to shape Fox’s on-air content knew about the validity of the fraud allegations as they gave pro-Trump election deniers a platform — often in front of hosts who mustered no pushback.“There appears to be a pretty good argument that Fox endorsed the accuracy of what was being said,” said Lee Levine, a veteran First Amendment lawyer who has defended major media organizations in defamation cases. He added that Fox’s arguments were stronger against some of Dominion’s claims than others. But based on what he has seen of the case so far, Mr. Levine said, “I’d much rather be in Dominion’s shoes than Fox’s right now.”Dominion’s filing casts Mr. Murdoch as a chairman who was both deeply engaged with his senior leadership about coverage of the election and operating at somewhat of a remove, unwilling to interfere. Asked by Dominion’s lawyer, Justin Nelson, whether he could have ordered Fox News to keep Trump lawyers like Ms. Powell and Mr. Giuliani off the air, Mr. Murdoch responded: “I could have. But I didn’t.”The document also described how Paul D. Ryan, a former Republican speaker of the House and current member of the Fox Corporation board of directors, said in his deposition that he had implored Mr. Murdoch and his son Lachlan, the chief executive officer, “that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories.” Mr. Ryan suggested instead that the network pivot and “move on from Donald Trump and stop spouting election lies.”There was some discussion at the highest levels of the company about how to make that pivot, Dominion said.On Jan. 5, 2021, the day before the attack at the Capitol, Mr. Murdoch and Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, talked about whether Mr. Hannity and his fellow prime-time hosts, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, should make it clear to viewers that Mr. Biden had won the election. Mr. Murdoch said in his deposition that he had hoped such a statement “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election was stolen.”According to the filing, Ms. Scott said of the hosts, “Privately they are all there,” but “we need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers.” No statement of that kind was made on the air.Dominion details the close relationship that Fox hosts and executives enjoyed with senior Republican Party officials and members of the Trump inner circle, revealing how at times Fox was shaping the very story it was covering. It describes how Mr. Murdoch placed a call to the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, immediately after the election. In his deposition, Mr. Murdoch testified that during that call he likely urged Mr. McConnell to “ask other senior Republicans to refuse to endorse Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories and baseless claims of fraud.”Dominion also describes how Mr. Murdoch provided Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, with confidential information about ads that the Biden campaign would be running on Fox.At one point, Dominion’s lawyers accuse Ms. Pirro, who hosted a Saturday evening talk show, of “laundering her own conspiracy theories through Powell.” The filing goes on to say Ms. Pirro bragged to her friends “that she was the source for Powell’s claims.” Dominion notes that this was “something she never shared with her audience.”The filing on Monday included a deposition by Viet Dinh, Fox Corporation’s chief legal officer, who was one of the many senior executive cautioning about the content of Fox’s coverage. After Mr. Hannity told his audience on Nov. 5, 2020, that it would be “impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results,” Mr. Dinh told a group of senior executives including Lachlan Murdoch and Ms. Scott: “Hannity is getting awfully close to the line with his commentary and guests tonight.”When asked in his deposition if Fox executives had an obligation to stop hosts of shows from broadcasting lies, Mr. Dinh said: “Yes, to prevent and correct known falsehoods.”In their filing on Monday, Fox’s lawyers accused Dominion of cherry-picking evidence that some at Fox News knew the allegations against Dominion were not true and, therefore, acted out of actual malice, the legal standard required to prove defamation. “The vast majority of Dominion’s evidence comes from individuals who had zero responsibility for the statements Dominion challenges,” the lawyers said.
“Some of our commentators were endorsing it,” Rupert Murdoch conceded during his sworn deposition, appearing to insist that Fox hosts did not speak for the network. “Yes. They endorsed,” he said. | Julio Cortez/AP Fox News executive chair Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition that some Fox News hosts endorsed President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, potentially undermining the network’s assertion that it was neutrally relaying dubious arguments from Trump and his allies, a court filing released Monday said. The admission from Murdoch came in a libel suit voting equipment maker that Dominion Voting Systems is pressing against the TV network over its coverage of the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. However, the ongoing lawsuit is also opening a unique window into Fox’s internal deliberations, particularly in the tense period after Election Day, as the network struggled to hang on to a viewer base heavily invested in Trump’s claims of victory even as senior Fox officials were privately convinced Trump’s claims were bogus and he had lost. Dominion’s court filing released Monday, a response to Fox’s own recent submission in the case, portrays senior executives at the network as widely in agreement that their network shouldn’t help Trump spread the false narrative. Yet, they repeatedly wrestled with how firmly to disavow it without risking their Trump-friendly audience. “Some of our commentators were endorsing it,” Murdoch conceded during his sworn deposition, appearing to insist that Fox hosts did not speak for the network. “Yes. They endorsed,” he said. “It is fair to say you seriously doubted any claim of massive election fraud?” a Dominion lawyer asked the broadcasting mogul. “Oh, yes,” Murdoch replied. “And you seriously doubted it from the very beginning?” the attorney asked. “Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up,” Murdoch said. But as time passed, the network agreed to air Trump’s claims because of their inherent newsworthiness, executives said, while suggesting their hosts would challenge or push back on the false claims. Dominion said that pushback was tepid at best and drowned out by louder and larger embraces of Trump’s claims. The filing also underscored the extraordinary linkages between Trump’s White House, his campaign and the network, whose top executives and programmers were regularly in contact about editorial decisions and issues related to political strategy. A series of episodes detailed in the submission suggest not only that the network and its leaders were actively aiding Trump’s re-election bid, but that Trump sometimes took direction from Fox. Murdoch, according to Dominion’s filing, said in his deposition that he “provided Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, with Fox’s confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy. According to the filing, Trump’s decision to drop controversial lawyer Sidney Powell from his legal team was driven by criticism from Fox. “Fox was instrumental in maneuvering Powell both into the Trump campaign and then out of it,” Dominion’s lawyers wrote. However, Dominion notes that Fox shows continued to have Powell on as a guest even after Trump disavowed her. The voting machine maker says that her continued presence undermines Fox’s claim in the litigation that it was just relaying newsworthy statements by Trump attorneys and advisers about their thoroughly unsuccessful efforts to challenge the 2020 election results. In the immediate aftermath of the election, Murdoch emailed with other Fox executives to underscore this point, specifically worrying that some of the network’s primetime hosts might fail to get the desired message: that the vote was not tainted with fraud. In a statement Monday, a Fox spokesperson said much of the evidence Dominion cited wasn’t relevant to the legal issues in the case. “Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear FOX for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment,” the Fox statement said. “Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny,” the statement also declared. According to the evidence described by Dominion, Murdoch called Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell right after the election and urged him to tell other Republican leaders not to embrace Trump’s false fraud claims. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a member of Fox’s corporate board, repeatedly pressed internally to steer the network away from “conspiracy theories.” After Jan. 6, Ryan pressed his view even more forcefully inside Fox. “Ryan believed that some high percentage of Americans thought the election was stolen because they got a diet of information telling them the election was stolen from what they believed were credible sources,” Dominion’s brief says. “Rupert responded to Ryan’s email: ‘Thanks Paul. Wake-up call for Hannity, who has been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers.’” But time and again, the executives were confronted with evidence that the network was experiencing a backlash from viewers who felt Fox wasn’t sufficiently supportive of Trump’s claims, a potential threat to the network’s viewer base. Dominion’s lawyers argue that Fox officials soft-pedaled their efforts to rein in such statements by their own hosts because Fox leaders remained acutely concerned that their viewers would migrate to platforms that were enthusiastically trumpeting Trump’s claims, like Newsmax and One America News (OAN). Fox has sought to assert a “neutral reportage” privilege to argue that it should not be held liable for the accuracy of statements that it attributed to others, like Trump and his attorneys. Dominion says Fox’s hosts failed to challenge those assertions even when Fox officials knew or strongly suspected they were untrue. However, Fox’s lawyers argue that the fact that someone at the network regarded particular claims as untrue does not establish that the people uttering them on air knew that. Fox’s defense also appears to contend that the views of corporate level executives — including Murdoch — about the election fraud issues aren’t relevant to Fox’s liability for allegedly defaming Dominion “Dominion barely tries to demonstrate that the specific person(s) at Fox News responsible for any of the statements it challenges subjectively knew or harbored serious doubts about the truth of that statement when it was published,” Fox’s attorneys wrote in their own lengthy court filing. “Instead, it lards up its brief with any cherry-picked statement it can muster from any corner of Fox News to try to demonstrate that ‘Fox’ writ large — not the specific persons at Fox News responsible for any given statement — ’knew’ that the allegations against Dominion were false.” While the case is pending in a state court in Delaware, a judge said in a preliminary ruling last year that New York law appeared to apply and that state did not recognize the neutral reportage privilege, only a similar protection for statements that are actually uttered in official government proceedings. The court filings released Monday contained only excerpts of the statements from various depositions, so the full context of all the statements was not always apparent.
DOVER, Del. (AP) - Fox Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that some Fox News commentators endorsed the false allegations by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that he didn’t step in to stop them from promoting the claims, according to excerpts of a deposition unsealed Monday.The claims and the company’s handling of them are at the heart of a defamation lawsuit against the cable news giant by Dominion Voting Systems.The recently unsealed documents include excerpts from a deposition in which Murdoch was asked about whether he was aware that some of the network’s commentators — Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity — at times endorsed the false election claims. Murdoch replied, “Yes. They endorsed.”The Murdoch deposition is the latest filing in the defamation case to reveal concerns at the top-rated network over how it was handling Trump’s claims as its ratings plummeted after the network called Arizona for Joe Biden, angering Trump and his supporters.An earlier filing showed a gulf between the stolen election narrative the network was airing in primetime and doubts about the claims raised by its stars behind the scenes. In one text, from Nov. 16, 2020, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said “Sidney Powell is lying” about having evidence for election fraud, referring to one of Trump’s lawyers.The Dominion case is the latest example showing that those who were spreading false information about the 2020 election knew there was no evidence to support it. The now-disbanded House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol disclosed that many of Trump’s top advisers repeatedly warned him that the allegations he was making about fraud were false — and yet the president continued making the claims.Murdoch urged in September 2020, weeks before the election, that Dobbs be fired because he was “an extremist,” according to Dominion’s court filing. Murdoch also said he thought it was “really bad” for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to be advising Trump because Giuliani’s “judgment was bad” and he was “an extreme partisan,” according to a deposition excerpt.Murdoch was asked whether he could have requested that Powell and Giuliani not be put on the air: “I could have. But I didn’t,” he replied.Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, which sells electronic voting hardware and software, is suing both Fox News Network and parent company Fox Corp. for defamation. Dominion contends that some Fox News employees deliberately amplified false claims by supporters of Trump that Dominion machines had changed votes in the 2020 election, and that Fox provided a platform for guests to make false and defamatory statements about the company.Dominion attorneys contend that executives in the “chain of command” at both Fox News and Fox Corp. knew the network was broadcasting “known lies, had the power to stop it, but chose to let it continue. That was wrong, and for that, FC and FNN are both liable.”Attorneys for Fox Corp. note in their filing that Murdoch also testified that he never discussed Dominion or voter fraud with any of the accused Fox News hosts. They say Dominion has produced “zero evidentiary support” for the claim that high-level executives at Fox Corp. had any role in creating or publishing the statements at issue.Dominion’s contention that the company should be held liable because Murdoch might have had the power to step in and prevent the challenged statements from being aired, they said, “has no basis in defamation law, would obliterate the distinction between corporate parents and subsidiaries, and finds no support in the evidence.”The “handful of selective quotes” cited by Dominion have nothing to do with the statements that Dominion has challenged as defamatory, according to Fox Corp. attorneys. “Dominion repeatedly asked Fox News executives, hosts, and staff whether Fox Corporation employees played a role in the publication of the statements it challenges,” they wrote. “The answer — every single time, for every single witness — was no.”Meanwhile, Fox News attorneys note that when voting-technology companies denied the allegations being made by Trump and his surrogates, Fox News aired those denials, while some Fox News hosts offered protected opinion commentary about Trump’s allegations.Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said some anchors of the company's TV networks parroted false fraud claims in the months following the 2020 election. In new filings as part of Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox and its networks, Murdoch said he doubted the claims being aired on Fox News and Fox Business Network. Monday's court filings show Murdoch and other Fox executives remained close to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott during the election coverage. Members of Rise and Resist participate in their weekly "Truth Tuesday" protest at News Corp headquarters on February 21, 2023 in New York City. Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images News | Getty Images Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said some anchors of the company's TV networks parroted false fraud claims in the months following the 2020 election, according to new court papers out Monday. In new filings as part of Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox and its networks, Murdoch said he doubted the election fraud claims being aired on Fox News and Fox Business Network. Murdoch also acknowledged that Fox's TV hosts endorsed the false election fraud claims. In unveiled question and answers from Murdoch's deposition, when Murdoch was asked if he was "now aware that Fox endorsed at times this false notion of a stolen election," Murdoch responded, "Not Fox, no. Not Fox. But maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria [Bartiromo] as commentators." "Some of our commentators were endorsing it," Murdoch said in his responses during the deposition. "They endorsed." Dominion sued Fox and its right-wing cable networks, Fox News and Fox Business, arguing the networks and its personalities made false claims that its voting machines rigged the results of the 2020 election. Fox News has consistently denied that it knowingly made false claims about the election, and has said "the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech." In earlier court papers, Fox said that the past year of discovery has shown the company played "no role in the creation and publication of the challenged statements -- all of which aired on either Fox Business Network or Fox News Channel." Murdoch and his son, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch, as well as Fox's chief legal and policy officer Viet Dinh, were questioned in connection with the lawsuit in recent months. Earlier in February court papers were released that showed snippets of the evidence Dominion gathered through the months-long process of discovery and depositions, which also included Fox TV personalities. Text messages and testimony have shown Fox executives and Fox's TV anchors were skeptical about claims that the election between Joe Biden, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican, was rigged. Dominion said in court papers filed Monday that Fox's defense that the statements made were opinion "goes nowhere." "Even if some of Fox's hosts' statements could qualify as 'opinions,' they are still actionable if—as here—they are based on false or undisclosed facts," Dominion said. A representative for Fox News reiterated in a statement on Monday that Dominion mischaracterized the facts by cherry-picking soundbites: "When Dominion is not mischaracterizing the law, it is mischaracterizing the facts." Fox has also targeted Dominion's private-equity owner in court papers regarding Dominion's request for $1.6 billion in damages, saying the firm "paid a small fraction of that amount" to buy Dominion. Fox has also said in court papers the $1.6 billion figure has no connection to Dominion's financial value. "Dominion's lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims," said a Fox spokesperson in a statement Monday. "Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear FOX for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment." A Dominion spokesperson said Monday, "The damages claim remains. As Fox well knows, our damages exceed $1.6 billion." Dominion brought its lawsuit not only against the TV networks, but parent company Fox Corp., arguing the parent company and its top executives played a role in the spread of misinformation about voter fraud by Fox's personalities. A Delaware judge had ruled Dominion's case could be expanded beyond the networks to include Fox Corp. Monday's court filings show Murdoch and other Fox executives remained closed to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott during the election coverage. "I'm a journalist at heart. I like to be involved in these things," Murdoch said during his deposition testimony, according to court papers. Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio, in New York. Richard Drew | AP Earlier court papers have shown top anchors including Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham expressed disbelief in Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump attorney who aggressively promoted claims of election fraud, at the time. Paul Ryan, the former Republican speaker of the House and a Fox board member, also sat for questioning as part of the lawsuit. Court papers out Monday show Ryan said that "these conspiracy theories were baseless," and that the network "should labor to dispel conspiracy theories if and when they pop up." Ryan also told both Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch "that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories," according to the filings. Dominion alleges that Fox News anchors were feeling pressure from the audience and related to rival right-wing networks like Newsmax, fueling on-air fraud claims. The court papers have also shown other glimpses of the network's internal response to the events that occurred on Jan. 6, 2021, the day a violent mob breached the U.S. Capitol in support of then-President Donald Trump. Fox executives shut down Trump's attempt to appear on the network's air that evening, after he dialed into on-air personality Lou Dobbs' show in the afternoon, court filings show. That same evening, Carlson texted his producer calling Trump "a demonic force. A destroyer. But he's not going to destroy us," referring to Fox's network and its audience, court papers show. Meanwhile, the night before Jan. 6, court papers showed, Murdoch told Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, "it's been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like 'the election is over and Joe Biden won.'" The lawsuit is being closely monitored by First Amendment watchdogs and experts. Libel lawsuits are typically focused on one falsehood, but in this case Dominion cites a lengthy list of examples of Fox TV hosts making false claims even after they were proven to be untrue. Media companies are often broadly protected by the First Amendment. A status conference in the case is slated for next week, and the trial is set to begin in mid-April. WATCH LIVEWATCH IN THE APP
A Hillsborough County man who was the first person in Florida to face trial on charges of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election was sentenced Monday to two years of probation.Nathan Hart, 49, was arrested in August as part of a sweep announced by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in which about 20 people were arrested on voter fraud charges related to the 2020 election.Hart rejected plea deals and instead headed to trial earlier this month. A jury returned with a split verdict, finding him guilty of false affirmation, but not guilty of voting as an unqualified elector. Both are third-degree felonies that carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.After the jury’s verdict, prosecutors asked that Hart receive five years of probation, while the defense asked that his only punishment be the time he served in jail after his arrest. Jail records show there were about 13 hours between the time Hart was booked and he was released on bail.In court Monday, Judge Laura Ward denied a motion from the defense for a new trial and said she believed that some level of supervision was appropriate for Hart. The defense again asked for Hart to be sentenced to only time served.“The state at some point before trial ... they were offering six months’ probation, after trial they had requested I think five years’ probation, today they want some jail time followed by probation,” Ward said. “And quite frankly, I’d be more than willing to work with the state on that, had the jury come back guilty to both counts.”Ward also said: “Quite frankly, Mr. Hart, if the jury had returned a guilty verdict as to both charges, I think jail time would be more than appropriate in this case.”Hart had voted in the 2020 election despite a previous felony conviction in relation to a charge of lewd or lascivious molestation, which made him ineligible to vote.During the trial, Hart took the stand and explained that he was approached by a man outside a Hillsborough County driver’s license office in 2020. Hart said the man told him he would be able to vote after Amendment 4, a 2018 constitutional amendment approved by voters, restored that right to felons. Hart said he didn’t think he was eligible to vote, but the man said if he received a voter ID, he would be able to. So he did.DeSantis had established a unit to investigate voter fraud after the 2020 election despite little evidence that widespread fraud had been occurring in Florida.Body cam video from several of the arrests made last year show confusion among the people being taken into custody and among officers making the arrests, some of whom were apologetic.Ward also sentenced Hart to complete 100 hours of community service and to pay court costs.“Obviously no voting,” Ward added. Hart has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
ToplineBillionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch acknowledged in a deposition that several Fox News anchors “endorsed” former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, as the Murdoch-led Fox Corporation looks to fend off a $1.6 billion lawsuit from a voting machine company that argues the false claims amounted to defamation. Key Facts Murdoch said in the deposition—which took place last month, but snippets of which became public in a Delaware court filing by Dominion Voting Systems Monday—that he believes Fox executives should have taken a bigger role in toning down the claims frequently presented on primetime Fox News programs following the 2020 election, saying: “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight.” Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News over the claims, stating the actions of Fox News anchors and executives at the Fox Corporation—where Murdoch serves as chairman—amounted to “actual malice” that harmed the company, which endured baseless allegations that its voting machines were used to rig the 2020 election in Joe Biden’s favor. Fox lawyers have pushed back on the assertion, arguing anchors like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson were doing their jobs as journalists by investigating the election fraud claims, which was their right under the First Amendment. The Fox chairman argued in his deposition that the company didn’t endorse stolen election claims, but “some of our commentators were endorsing it,” listing hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, former host Lou Dobbs and Hannity “a bit.” Murdoch also told a Dominion attorney he had the power to keep election deniers—like Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell—off Fox News, but chose not to. At one point, Murdoch explained the decision to let Lindell run ads for his company, MyPillow, as a strictly financial—rather than political—move, saying: “It is not red or blue, it is green,” according to Monday’s court filing. Fox News in a statement blasted Dominion for what it calls an “extreme” view of making “the press is liable for reporting newsworthy allegations made by the sitting President of the United States even if the press makes clear that the allegations are unproven.” Crucial Quote “Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny,” Fox News said. Key Background Dominion’s filing argues Fox News anchors and executives knowingly pushed claims they knew were false to boost ratings after former President Donald Trump lambasted the conservative network for its election night coverage, specifically Fox’s decision to call Arizona for President Joe Biden before other major media outlets. It cites numerous emails to back up its claims, including several exchanges between Murdoch and former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who urged him to clamp down on the election fraud claims. Murdoch in one email to Ryan–who is a Fox Corporation board member–shortly after the January 6 storming of the Capitol described the rioting as a “Wake-up call for Hannity, who has been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers.” Fox News has been the most-watched cable news network for more than 20 years. Surprising Fact A separate Dominion court filing earlier this month included text messages from Hannity, Ingraham and Carlson and other anchors apparently acknowledging they knew the election fraud claims were not true. “No serious lawyer could believe what they were saying,” Ingraham said of Giuliani and Powell’s appearances, calling Giuliani “such an idiot” and Powell a “complete nut.” What To Watch For A five-week defamation trial in the Dominion case is scheduled to start on April 17, while Fox News is also fighting against a defamation suit from voting machine company Smartmatic. Dominion and Smartmatic have also taken legal action against hard-right networks like Newsmax and One America News Network, along with Trump’s former legal advisors, among others. Both sides have asked the court to accept separate motions to resolve the case via pre-trial summary judgment, Forbes Valuation We estimate Murdoch, 91, and his family to be worth $17.8 billion through their media empire, which controls Fox broadcasting products, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and many other brands. Tangent Trump’s attacks on Fox News now focus on what he believes is the network propping up Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) against him in a potential 2024 Republican primary battle. Trump claimed Monday on his Truth Social platform that Fox is “promoting Ron [DeSantis] so hard and so much there’s not much time for Real News.” Further Reading Fox News Sued By Dominion Voting For Defamation Over Election Conspiracy (Forbes) ‘Mind Blowingly Nuts’: Fox News Hosts And Execs Repeatedly Denounced 2020 Election Fraud Off-Air—Here Are Their Most Scathing Comments (Forbes) Court Lets Lawsuit Against Fox News Move Forward—Here’s Where Dominion And Smartmatic’s Defamation Suits Stand Now (Forbes) Trump Blasts Fox News—Again—For Promoting DeSantis ‘So Hard And So Much’ (Forbes)
CNN — Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation, acknowledged in a deposition taken by Dominion Voting Systems that some Fox News hosts endorsed false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.Murdoch's remarks in a deposition were made public in a legal filing as part of Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News."Some of our commentators were endorsing it," Murdoch said, singling out Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro as Fox hosts who promoted the false stolen election claims on air, according to a transcript of his deposition. Murdoch acknowledged the hosts frequently invited guests who made similar claims.But Murdoch pushed back against Dominion's lawyers who claimed that Fox was endorsing "this false notion of a stolen election?""Not Fox. But maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria, as commentators," Murdoch said in his deposition.In another filing made public earlier this month, a trove of messages and emails from the most prominent stars and highest-ranking executives at Fox News showed they had privately ridiculed claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, despite the right-wing channel promoting lies about the presidential contest on its air.The messages showed that Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham brutally mocked lies being pushed by former President Donald Trump's camp asserting that the election was rigged.The court filings have offered the most vivid picture to date of the chaos that transpired behind the scenes at Fox News after Trump lost the election and viewers rebelled against the right-wing channel for accurately calling the contest in Biden's favor.Fox News has not only vigorously denied Dominion's claims, it has insisted it is "proud" of its 2020 election coverage.The network argued that the court filing contained cherry-picked quotes lacking context."There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan," Fox News said in a statement.- This is breaking news and will be updated.The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.