Fox News Settles $787.5 Million Defamation Lawsuit with Dominion over 2020 Election Coverage
Fox News has reached a settlement with Dominion, a voting machine company, regarding a defamation lawsuit related to its reporting on the 2020 US election just before the deadline. The settlement of $787.5 million reflects Fox's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards, according to a statement from the network. Dominion sued Fox in 2021, alleging that the network knowingly aired false information aimed at undercutting public confidence in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The lawsuit claimed that Fox hosts allowed lawyers affiliated with former President Donald Trump to falsely claim that the company had rigged the election against him.
It was anticipated that the trial would center on whether Fox News or Fox Corporation exhibited “actual malice” while spreading the untrue accusations against Dominion. According to the previous rulings of the Supreme Court, Dominion would need to demonstrate that the individuals who aired the segments were either aware of their falsehood or acted with a high level of disregard for the truthfulness of the accusations. The judge in the case had already ruled that Fox had broadcast false statements about Dominion, and that Dominion only had to prove that Fox acted with “actual malice,” which would mean they knowingly and intentionally ignored the truth to broadcast falsehoods.
The settlement seems to be more focused on Fox's conduct towards Dominion, its executives, and employees, rather than other media outlets, due to the particularly egregious facts and circumstances. Fox is now facing the consequences of media malpractice displayed in this astounding case. The payout for defamation is one of the biggest in history, constituting almost 6 percent of Fox's overall revenue for 2022. The rushed effort towards a settlement implies that the company was adamant about avoiding any possibility of their stars or executive chairman, Rupert Murdoch, testifying in court. However, Fox has come to realize that the payout in the nine-figure range is a necessary expense to ensure the network's survival and maintain its operations.
During the trial, a cache of private messages, emails, and depositions revealed that Fox may not have upheld the journalistic responsibility to report the truth to audiences. In pretrial rulings, the judge dismissed Fox's First Amendment defenses and prohibited the network from claiming that the defamatory statements made by its guests were “newsworthy” and thus worthy of coverage. The trial had been expected to start Monday in Delaware, but Superior Court Judge Eric Davis announced it would be delayed until Tuesday.
Although Fox has settled the case, avoiding the more complex First Amendment issues, it remains accountable not only financially but also in terms of its reputation. Despite this, the cable news network with the highest viewership may still persist in their approach of concealing facts that could potentially isolate their predominantly conservative audience.
Dominion CEO John Poulos told reporters, “Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my Company, our employees, and our customers. According to Poulos, there is nothing that can compensate for it. In the course of this procedure, our aim has been to establish responsibility and we are convinced that the proof uncovered in this lawsuit emphasizes the repercussions of propagating and supporting falsehoods. The media's truthful reporting is crucial for the functioning of our democracy.
0. “Can Fox News afford the $787.5m Dominion settlement?” BBC, 19 Apr. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-65320001
1. “Fox’s Primetime Hosts Completely Ignored the Dominion Settlement” Rolling Stone, 19 Apr. 2023, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/foxs-primetime-hosts-dominion-settlement-1234717513/
2. “Tapper laughs reading Fox News settlement statement: ‘Difficult to say with a straight face’” The Hill, 18 Apr. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/media/3957555-tapper-laughs-reading-fox-news-settlement-statement-difficult-to-say-with-a-straight-face/
3. “Why Fox News had to settle the Dominion suit” POLITICO, 19 Apr. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/04/18/why-fox-news-had-to-settle-the-dominion-suit-00092708
4. “Fox News Lost the Lawsuit but Won the War” The Atlantic, 18 Apr. 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/04/fox-news-lost-lawsuit-won-war/673760/
5. “Fox News settles with Dominion Voting Systems in its 2020 election defamation case” Vox.com, 18 Apr. 2023, https://www.vox.com/politics/2023/4/18/23688613/fox-dominion-settlement-trial-2020
6. “What to know about the Fox News and Dominion trial” CNN, 17 Apr. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/16/media/fox-dominion-what-to-know/index.html
7. “Jake Tapper Loses It Over Fox News’ Spin After Dominion Settlement” Yahoo Life, 18 Apr. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/jake-tapper-loses-over-fox-221351877.html
8. “Fox News, Dominion Voting Systems reach lawsuit settlement in high-stakes defamation case” CBS News, 18 Apr. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fox-news-dominion-voting-systems-lawsuit-settlement/