Fox Corp. vs. Fox News: Judge Davis rules against Dominion for reporting on the day of the biggest story of the day
After Fox’s correct projection of Arizona for Joe Biden, network leaders schemed to woo back Trump supporters. Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott texted Lachlan Murdoch, the Fox Corp co-chairman, that “the AZ The call was damaging but we will show our stars, and plant flags so that viewers know we respect them.
For its part, Fox’s attorneys call Dominion’s suit an attempt to punish the news network for reporting on “one of the biggest stories of the day.” The network claims that it could stop reporters from reporting on allegations that may be inconvenient to other companies.
In a ruling yesterday, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis affirmed that Dominion should receive the contracts – the point of contention in Tuesday’s hearing.
Fox News host Maria Bartiromo was first to interview Powell, the Trump attorney, on Nov. 8, 2020, a few days after the election. Powell would become one of Trump’s most fervent legal advocates. In her deposition, Bartiromo conceded Powell’s claims lacked any substantiation.
In his exchanges with the judge, Keller drew a line distinguishing between a host or producer “who are sometimes pre-scripting material for the show, that is going to be tethered to a specific channel’s telecast” and a network executive.
Rupert Murdoch, the Fox Corporation chairman, emailed Suzanne Scott, the Fox News chief executive, telling her that Newsmax needed to be “watched.” Murdoch said that he didn’t “want to antagonize Trump further” and stressed to her, “everything at stake here.”
Nelson pointed to a document obtained from Fox, which he said talked about the editorial meeting that occurs, as well as almost all of these executives.
According to filed documents reviewed by NPR, the court is being requested to compel additional testimony from a close adviser to Trump. The attorneys for the company want to bar Fox from asserting reporter’s privilege during earlier questioning, but the full filing is sealed. Court records show that he was deposed in August.
Under the high legal bar of actual malice, defined in that 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving The New York Times, Dominion has to show Fox acted either with knowledge that what it was broadcasting to the public was false, or that it acted with reckless disregard of the truth.
The Fox News audience fear of abandonment appeared to be a factor in programming decisions. In the days following the election, Alex Pfeiffer, a Carlson producer, told the host that many viewers were upset that they did not cover election fraud. It’s all our viewers care about right now.”
Bartiromo, who hosted the first post election interview with Trump, echoed Trump’s claim of electoral fraud and said we cannot allow America’s election to be corrupted. In the middle of December she told viewers that an intel source said Trump had won the election. Bartiromo, who was declared a news anchor, never came back to explain how the source made that statement. (Fox no longer publicly characterizes her as an anchor, which had rooted her in the news side of Fox, as opposed to an opinion host.)
In the weeks after the January 6 insurrection, there was a cancellation of the show on Fox Business, in which Dobbs regularly promoted baseless conspiracy theories.
The court document showed that Fox News executives had been critical of some of the network’s top talent. Jay Wallace, the network president, said that “the North Koreans” did a “more nuanced show” than then-host Lou Dobbs. The executive producer of Justice with Judge Jeanine called the host of the show a bunch of nuts.
Fox News has repeatedly defended its conduct by invoking the importance of American free speech principles bound up in the First Amendment, saying the Smartmatic and Dominion cases are attempts to chill independent reporting and commentary.
In Australia, the media magnate and his family currently live, Murdoch has taken a seemingly conflicting stance across the globe. The Murdochs were accused of being “unindicted co-conspirators” by a political columnist for the magazine in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. Congress.
In that case, Murdoch is accusing a much smaller media outlet of defamation. He forced the site to pay out for highly critical commentary a number of times, which he intends to use as a test case for the recent changes in libel law in that country. Legal cover for media outlets is less in Australia than in the U.S.
The fate of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News lies in the hands of a plainspoken judge, who has a reputation for making tough decisions.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis, a 12-year veteran of the state’s bench and former corporate attorney, has often sought to temper emotions in the contentious proceedings between the broadcasting giant and Dominion Voting Systems, a voting-technology company. The other side accused the other of acting in bad faith.
“If he were given a name, it would be Cool Hand Leather,” says Joseph Hurley, who has argued before Davis but has no involvement with the case. “In court, he never shows any emotion, and I mean that in a good way.”
Newsmax had requested that the defamation claim be thrown out. Smartmatic’s facts lead Davis to infer that Newsmax’s airing of stolen-election claims was reckless enough to meet high legal bar required for defamation.
Like Dominion, Smartmatic was the subject of false claims that its software had switched Trump votes to Joe Biden. Those claims were broadcast on Newsmax, Fox News and elsewhere.
“Newsmax either knew its statements regarding Smartmatic’s role in the election-fraud narrative were false, or at least it had a high degree of awareness that they were probably false,” the judge stated.
John Culhane, a professor at the Delaware Law School, says that the judge didn’t have any of the Newsmax arguments.
Culhane cautions against drawing too strong a conclusion from the Newsmax ruling, but says Davis is very step-by-step when it comes to the law.
The Smartmatic Correspondence – Why I’m Afraid of Fox News’s Claims about the 2020 Presidential Campaign, and What I Have Done About It
The most prominent stars and highest-ranking executives at Fox News privately ridiculed claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, despite the right-wing channel allowing lies about the presidential contest to be promoted on its air, damning messages contained in a Thursday court filing revealed.
Smartmatic also has sued Fox for $2.7 billion, but that suit is not as far along as Dominion’s. The Smartmatic case against Fox News and several of it’s stars was rejected by a New York state appellate court on Tuesday. The claims against the Fox Corp were thrown out by the ruling.
The amended complaint would detail the involvement of the Murdochs, according to Connolly.
Newsmax’s attorneys cite a legal privilege, known as neutral reportage, that allows it to present “unprecedented allegations without adopting them as true, so that the public could draw its own conclusions.”
He says the First Amendment protects reporters in order to guarantee a robust and unintimidated press, but also that the “First Amendment is not unlimited.” He said a neutral reportage principle does not protect a publisher who “deliberately distorts” statements to “launch a personal attack of [its] own on a public figure.”
The stakes in both cases are very high. Davis doesn’t want to amplify his own profile. His court did not allow a photo of him to be used for this story. The Delaware legal bar is renowned for its ability to ensure an air of comity around proceedings.
In a Feb. 8 court hearing in Dominion’s suit against Fox, Davis apologized to the rival legal teams, saying he had been surprised to re-read an email in which he said he came off as snarky.
He pinned it on his use of a pat phrase. “You know that typical sarcastic thing that judges say?” Davis asked what he wanted to do. Don’t tell me I’m wrong, tell me if I’m wrong. It means that I’m making a statement. But that wasn’t why I was doing it.”
Carlson’s Fox News Brief: The Case for Trump’s Anomalous Use of a Free Press Channel to Revile the F**k
The network’s top stars are contemptuous of claims in group chats, but they also disagree with colleagues who point that out.
In one message, Carlson said he had caught Sidney Powell, an attorney for the Trump campaign, faking her testimony. Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.
The material presented in the remarkable 178-page brief reflects there were no illusions that there was heft to the allegations of election fraud even among those Fox figures who gave the most intense embrace to Trump allies peddling those lies.
The network said that there will be a lot of noise but that the core of the case is about freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
Trump attacked Fox News and encouraged his followers to switch to Newsmax. They did it in the days and weeks after the presidential contest was called. Newsmax gained a lot of viewers while Fox News lost some.
“Please get her fired,” Carlson told Hannity. What the f**k? I am shocked. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It is measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. It isn’t a joke.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter said that he wasn’t aware that top hosts were going to get her fired, and that he was unaware that she was reading the details in the legal filing.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto was attacked by colleagues for pulling his show away from a presentation by then White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany in which she made unfounded claims of fraud once more. (McEnany is now a host on Fox News.)
Scott proposed a plan to win viewers back after exchanging messages with Murdoch. Scott said the right-wing talk channel would “highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them.” Murdoch said the brand needed to be rebuilt without any mistakes.
The Fox News Stars: False Claims and True Election 2020 Candidate Inspiral in the Staple Street Capital Partners
Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Carolyn Kaster/AP; Alex Brandon/AP; Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images; Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
“Mind-blowingly nuts”, ” totally off the rails” and ” completely bs” were just some of the things the stars, producers, and executives of the network said when they were off the air.
“It’s remarkable how weak ratings make… good journalists do bad things,” Bill Sammon, at the time the network’s Washington Managing Editor, privately wrote on Dec. 2, 2020. Network executives fretted over the hit to Fox News’ brand among its viewers. There was little concern over journalistic values of fairness and accuracy other than some questions from Murdoch.
In a separate filing, also released to the public on Thursday, the cable network’s attorneys say Dominion’s ten-figure request for damages is designed to “generate headlines” and to enrich the company’s controlling owner, the private equity fund Staple Street Capital Partners.
The call into Fox News on January 6, 2021, after the Capitol attack: A legal filing reveals the frustration and determination of the network’s executives
On the day of the election, Baier, the network’s political anchor sent a friend a text saying there was no evidence of fraud. None. There are allegations of stories. Twitter. Bulls—.”
Sammon’s departure was called a retirement by Fox News through an intermediary, so he wouldn’t comment on that.
Former President Donald Trump tried to call into Fox News after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, but the network refused to put him on air, according to court filings from Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation case against the company.
A source familiar with the work of the House select committee said that the panel had no idea that Trump had made the call.
The panel sought to piece together a near minute-by-minute account of Trump’s movements, actions and phone calls on that day. Some of the discrepancies in the record still exist, due to the obstacles faced by the committee.
“The afternoon of January 6, after the Capitol came under attack, then-President Trump dialed into Lou Dobbs’ show attempting to get on air,” Dominion lawyers wrote in their legal brief.
The decision was vetoed by Fox executives, according to the filing. “Why? Not because of a lack of newsworthiness. January 6 was an important day in the history of mankind. President Trump not only was the sitting President, he was the key figure that day.”
But, despite privately acknowledging the realiity of the situation, the network allowed the lies to take hold on its air, in large part because executives and hosts were terrified that telling its sizable audience the truth would prompt them to tune out.
Behind the scenes, Fox News executives and hosts were in panic. Jay Wallace, the Fox News president, described Newsmax’s surge as “troubling” and said the network needed to be “on war footing.”
Hannity said he had already spoken to Scott about the matter. He criticized two of his colleagues who were critical of Trump, including Neil Cavuto and Chris Wallace.
When Lindell appeared on Newsmax and criticized Fox News, executives at Fox News “exchanged worried emails about alienating him,” the legal filing said. The filing said that Scott sent him a gift and handwritten note.