Fox News’ Speech Defense Risks Profit Motivation Allegations
Fox News has been in the headlines recently with the case brought by Dominion Voting Systems, which has revealed private communications that suggest the network’s producers, stars, and executives were aware the claims they were broadcasting were false and unhinged. In an interview with NPR, Fox attorney Erin Murphy suggested that the network errs on the side of speech, saying “We don’t suppress the speech that we don’t think is right.” This is in reference to Fox News being the first major television outlet to project that then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden would win Arizona on Election Night 2020.
Dominion has claimed that Fox resorted to conspiracy theories about election fraud in an attempt to placate the millions of pro-Trump viewers who were enraged by the Arizona call. Murphy argued that the president and his lawyers were newsworthy in and of themselves, and Fox relies heavily on the idea that news organizations must be allowed to convey allegations by major public figures to their audiences — even wild allegations.
However, Rutgers’ Chen suggests that this idea doesn’t hold up if Fox was motivated by profit instead of the newsworthiness of the claims being presented in its programs. In his sworn responses to questioning from Dominion attorney Justin Nelson, Fox Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that four of his star hosts had endorsed the baseless claims of election fraud. He referred to them as commentators, noting that opinions have even more latitude under case law than straight-ahead reporting.
0. “Fox News stands in legal peril. It says defamation loss would harm all media” KALW, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.kalw.org/npr-news/npr-news/2023-03-06/fox-news-stands-in-legal-peril-it-says-defamation-loss-would-harm-all-media