The defamation trial against Fox News will begin with jury selection

The lies that Fox News sold in its lawsuit against Donald Trump: The case of Dominion vs. Murdoch on the 2020 presidential election

Next week we will be reminded of the damaging lies that Fox News sold, as the defamation lawsuit against the network goes to trial. Hour after hour, night after night, they peddled Donald Trump’s insistence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. And they knew or at least suspected that they were wrong, to go by documents already released during the legal proceedings.

Whether or not Fox and its executives are liable for broadcasting the lies is one of the biggest questions facing the jury as the trial begins next week in Delaware.

The case relates to Fox’s decision after Donald Trump lost in the 2020 election to allow conspiracy theories to be aired on its broadcasts. Fox guests and some of their hosts accused the company of manipulating voting software in order to affect the outcome of the election.

Another thing the judge took off the table that was a big piece of Fox’s argument – and, you know, this is also going to be very difficult for them at trial – is all along, you know, Fox News has been an opinion network that had a rather robust news staff. They would point to the news staff, White House correspondents, congressional correspondents, Vatican correspondent and say, “Well, what’s being said on the air in primetime by people like Ailes is only part.” in the days of Roger Ailes We have a good number of dishonest journalists who work for us.

Fox said it never withheld any evidence from Dominion, and Fox lawyers said in court Wednesday that they only learned that Grossberg had made the recordings when she mentioned them in her lawsuits in recent weeks.

The discovery on Dominion has made this clear. Fox is not a news network and did have a news arm in the past. Murdoch denounced Trump’s election lies in an email to Allan of The New York Post. But Mike Lindell, CEO of a pillow company, went on Tucker Carlson’s show to lie about the election anyway. Dominion’s counsel asked Murdoch about his motives during his deposition, “It is not red or blue, it is green?” Murdoch agreed: it was about the green cash money.

Thanks to the sprawling real estate of cable television and the infinite expanse of the internet, we live in an age of so many information options, so many “news” purveyors, that we have an unprecedented ability to search out the one or ones that tell us precisely what we want to hear, for whatever reason we want to hear it. We don’t have to reckon with the truth. We can shop for it instead.

Jeremy Peters, the Fox News Executive, is worried about the Newsmax competitor, Rupert Murdoch, after the Jan. 6, 2020, insurrection

There has been more clarity on how Judge Davis operates with a number of recent rulings, and he has taken steps to reassure both parties that he didn’t set the outcome.

On Tuesday, Judge Davis dealt a blow to Dominion, ruling that its lawyers could not refer to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol because it could prejudice the jury. At that hearing, he limited how much the legal team of the company could speak about the death threats their employees had received.

There is a show called “Gross Happiness.” Jeremy Peters is a New York Times reporter. He is covering a defamation lawsuit against Fox News. During the first day of the trial, some surprising information emerged, after we had recorded our interview. The judge overseeing the lawsuit against Fox News said that he would start an investigation into the case to see if the network hid evidence. The tapes of Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox News, pre- interviewing Trump’s legal advisers, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, were handed over a week ago.

When the audience is upset that Fox told them that Donald Trump did not win reelection and that Joe Biden will be the president-elect, that’s when they’ll turn on Fox. Trump goes after Fox directly. Viewers switch the channel. They start watching Newsmax. And people like Rupert Murdoch at the very top of the company see this, and they panic. In one email, he writes to Suzanne Scott about ratings after the election. He told her he was getting creamed by CNN. Guess our viewers don’t want to watch it. That sets off a large amount of panic in Fox News at its executive level. And they really start to begin to worry about this little competitor that had never really drawn big ratings before, Newsmax, because Newsmax is – the hosts there are willing to lean into the conspiracy theories about voter fraud much harder than Fox initially was.

On the Behaviour of Dominion – Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and a Board of Supervisors (GROSS)

The company is sure to point out the recent actions by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, which recently chose to Cancel its contract with Dominion because of baseless conspiracy theories.

PETERS: It’s ridiculous, Terry. And I think what they’re talking about were instances in which some municipalities just stopped counting because it was late, and the vote counters tabulators needed to go home. They also may be referring to this incident that was widely misrepresented and distorted in right-wing media where a county in northern Michigan, the – one of the officials, the elections officials, just made a mistake, and he recorded Biden’s totals as Trump’s totals and vice versa. They realized that it was a human error. It didn’t have anything to do with the machines. But this became fodder for conspiracy theorists saying, see? The machines were taking votes away from the president, or they were trying to.

BARTIROMO: Voting machines don’t stop in the middle of an election but stop down to assess the situation. Nancy Pelosi has a long-time chief of staff who is also an executive at the company. Richard Blum, Senator Feinstein’s husband – significant shareholder of the company. What can you tell us about the interest on the other side of this Dominion software?

POWELL: Well, obviously, they have invested in it for their own reasons and are using it to commit this fraud to steal votes. I think they’ve even stolen them from other Democrats in their own party who should be outraged about this also. Bernie Sanders might very well have been the Democratic candidate, but they’ve stolen against whoever they wanted to steal it from.

GROSS: Sidney Powell was on Maria Bartiromo’s show in November of 2020. So that was just – the election was November 3, so that’s just a few days after the election. Can you interpret what she’s talking about, for instance, when she says that voting machines were stopped in the middle of an election to assess the situation? Is that what they’re talking about?

There’s a talkshow called “grOSS.” I want to fact-check what Sidney Powell said about Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein. The Associated Press, the AP, did a fact-check on that and said it’s all false. A former aide to Pelosi has represented Dominion as a lobbyist, but so have lobbyists who have worked for Republicans, and claims that Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, holds a stake in Dominion are baseless. So I just want to get that on the record. So there’s something really interesting about who the source was for some of Sidney…

There is a show called “Gross”. Some of Sidney Powell’s claims are true. There were signs that she wasn’t stable. Tell us about this source, Marlene Bourne, who claimed to be a tech analyst.

Peters: This is a significant piece of the case because it shows that they acted recklessly. A jury can conclude after seeing this email from the source that no one reading it will believe that this person is credible, so they shouldn’t rely on it for their coverage. And I’ll tell you what was in that email. It’s truly bonkers. Sidney Powell had spoken to a woman who went by the name of “Ms. Bourne.” And in this email, she describes to Sidney Powell how she talks to ghosts and listens to the wind, and that she has been “internally decapitated” – that’s a direct quote. I’m not sure what that means.

PETERS: Well, that’s funny. But it’s clear as day that a person like that is unreliable, mentally unstable. If I had forwarded that email to your producers, I wouldn’t have appeared on FRESH AIR. And the reason…

GROSS: She said she saw things that other people didn’t see and heard things that other people hadn’t heard and that she was shot in the back after she gave the FBI a tip.

PETERS: Yeah. It’s just crazy. And that’s the kind of language that people at Fox started to use to describe Sidney Powell. They said she was crazy. They called her nuts. They called her things that I will not repeat on this air. It shows that the doubts they had about her are true and that they were aware of it.


Murdoch’s role at Fox News: a story about the defamation lawsuit filed against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems

In the tape, Giuliani admits he didn’t have enough evidence to back up his claim that the voting machine software could be manipulated. The judge might appoint a master to investigate Fox’s handling of documents during the discovery process. Yesterday it was confirmed that Murdoch is an executive at Fox News and the chair of Fox Corporation. More of Murdoch’s documents would be included in the discovery process if Murdoch’s role at Fox News was disclosed. If Fox had to make someone available, they would have to do everything possible to make that happen, and that will be a big deal for Fox.

GrOSS: We have to take another break here. So let me reintroduce you. Jeremy Peters is with me. He’s a reporter for The New York Times and he covers media, politics and culture. And we’re going to talk more about the defamation lawsuit filed against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems after we take a short break. This is FRESH AIR, and I’m Terry Gross.

Another argument Fox has made is it was commentators who were making these statements, not news. They argued that we were just covering the news. But they’ve also argued, no, no, it was commentators, not reporters, who were making these claims.

Petres: Tucker Carlson said that the text message he sent to Sidney Powell was telling her to show us the evidence. And at one point in November 2020, Tucker goes on his show and he says, look, Sidney Powell promised us this evidence. She hasn’t given it to us, and this raises real doubts about her credibility and her story. Tucker Carlson told the truth to his audience, but they didn’t want to hear it.

GROSS: Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, two of Donald Trump’s legal advisers, discussed the possibility of stealing the election at a press conference held by one of the reporters on Fox. She showed that the conspiracy theories were false while she reported on the press conference. What consequences did she face for that report?

PETERS: She is calledKristin Fisher. She no longer works at Fox. She left the network in large part because of this incident. She got a phone call from her boss who said, “You need to do a better job of respecting our audience.” after she fact-checked that press conference. And this is a sentiment that had been conveyed to her boss by the chief executive of Fox News, who, at this point in November of 2020, was looking at the ratings decline Fox had been suffering and the ratings gains that competitors like Newsmax had been enjoying because they were more overtly pro-Trump. And Suzanne Scott panicked. Murdoch panicked. And they basically shut down an honest discussion of what really happened in the 2020 presidential election. And the way they do that is by telling their correspondents, effectively, only tell our audience what they want to hear, and they don’t want to hear that President Trump has lost.

He’s told his audience that the former president is moderate, sensible and wise. It just doesn’t track. And I think – you know, I don’t want to be too cynical about this. I don’t believe there’s any other way to see that other than that he thinks his audience wouldn’t know what he said about Trump if he were public. The Tucker Carlson audience is only being presented with the news that his producers and he think they want to hear.

Text messages were sent before and after the Sidney Powell incident to suggest that Tucker Carlson’s show was not covering voter fraud. They are deeply concerned about the whole notion that the election was rigged. They say openly, there just wasn’t enough fraud to have changed the outcome. This stuff makes me sick. This case raises a lot of big questions about our democratic system and our news media, but it is going to turn on small incidents, so that’s why it’s important.

They had a show named “Gross.” These are the rioters who broke into the Capitol. What does anyone think about that? I don’t know that that’s relevant to the actual, to the defamation lawsuit. But what does it say about Tucker Carlson and Fox?

So I just want to get to one more thing about Sidney Powell. One of the big supporters of the conspiracy theory on Fox News was Lou Dobbs. He hosted a show for Fox Business News. The producer of Dobbs said he believed that Powell was doing drugs, including cocaine and heroin.


What Will Fox News Pay for Spreading Lies About Voter Fraud?, Revisiting Murdoch’s Public Messages

And that’s when, as Dominion has laid out in its case, you see this moment where Suzanne Scott tells her lieutenants at the network, we need to respect our audience. And that’s basically code for we can’t tell them anything that they’ll find upsetting because they’re changing the channel.

PETERS: And it is. It’s something that Dominion cited in its presentation to the judge when they were arguing the summary judgment phase of the case. I expect to see it during the trial, especially when they put Murdoch on the stand.

When they went to the judge, they said, “We want access to more of Murdoch’s private messages”, because during the period of disclosure, we didn’t realize how much Murdoch was involved in Fox News. Tell us about this recent development.

Petres is an animal. It’s difficult to know how that will affect Trump, his base and the larger conservative media because we know that they are not reporting it very well on the right. I’m not sure if those lessons of accountability will work with the average conservative.

GROSS: First Amendment lawyers who are siding with a party do not want the First Amendment to protect baseless conspiracy theories and not protect media that promotes them.


FRESH AIR: Where are we going? Where do we come from? What do we need to know before we’re talking about voter fraud?

It’s a show. If you’d like to catch up on FRESH AIR interviews you missed – like this week’s interview with All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly, whose new memoir is about juggling her career and parenting; or with Josh Groban, who’s starring in the new Broadway revival of the Sondheim musical “Sweeney Todd” – check out our podcast. There are lots of interviews on FRESH AIR.

Danny Miller is the executive producer of FRESH AIR. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Roberta Shorrock, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Seth Kelley and Susan Nyakundi. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Thea Chaloner directed today’s show. I’m Terry Gross.


Fox Corp. Can’t Disturb Grossberg’s Defamation Claims? The Investigative Team Investigates the NPR Procedural Investigation

An NPR contractor creates transcripts on a rush deadline. This text may change in the future and may not be its final form. Accuracy and availability may vary. The audio record of NPR’s programming is authoritative.

In lawsuits filed last month, Grossberg claimed that Fox lawyers tried to keep her out of the case because she was related to the network.

The comments made by Grossberg on Maria Bartiromo’s show are at the center of the defamation case that jury selection began Thursday in Delaware. The network says it never defamed Dominion and that Dominion’s lawsuit undermines US press freedoms.

In Grossberg’s amended complaint filed this week, she accused Fox’s lawyers of deleting messages from her phone. There were deleted or missing messages when Grossberg got her phone back from Fox.

Scott was also on the receiving end of emails from Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, where he decried Trump’s election denialism and blamed Trump for the January 6 insurrection.

A report commissioned by Dominion and filed with the court laid out about a billion dollars worth of damages the company says it has experienced. Due to conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election, Dominion says it lost $16 million in profits, more than 70 million in potential business,14 million in legal, security and other expenses and more than $900 million in value.

Fox has asked the court not to award any damages to Dominion and said the claims are not based on any financial metrics, but instead on the assumption it will be completely out of business by 2031.

Dominion’s economic losses and lack of new voters have more than doubled in 2024, as viewed by an election security group

“You’re talking about economic damages and economic disturbance, and so emotional feelings, hurt feelings, emotional damages, those kinds of things typically are not going to enter into the calculation,” said Len Niehoff, a professor at the University of Michigan ‘s law school.

The case for monetary damages can be difficult to make because of the complex relationship between a business loss and why it happened.

These are things that can’t be proven with a lot of precision. It’s hard to show that people who didn’t do business with you didn’t do it for a reason, compared to other reasons.

For Dominion that means demonstrating that state and local governments aren’t using its equipment specifically because of lies and conspiracy theories and not other business factors.

Patrick Henry Jones told the board he couldn’t rely on the mainstream media for information about the machines’ accuracy and brought the motion to cancel the contract.

It is assumed that there will be no new customers and no one will walk in the door. Scott Ahmad, an attorney with Fox News, said in a recent court appearance that they will not be able to get new business from existing customers after 2024.

According to an analysis given to NPR by the election security group, the net increase in jurisdictions using the equipment has been since 2020. The nonprofit monitors election equipment contracts around the country.

“So I think what’s notable is that you can have many jurisdictions, some of which are quite small,” said Verified Voting CEO Pamela Smith about the discrepancy.

Most of the time, voting systems don’t change like every few years. They change them 10 years, 15 years.” The huge costs and administrative challenges of changing election equipment is what makes that happen.

She said it’s difficult to predict what would happen if a jurisdiction decides that it won’t allow Dominion to participate in bidding.

“Wherever previously they had an okay relationship or state might say ‘well we’re gonna go with this brand and then find out that it isn’t because the pushback is really hard.’ I suspect there’s a lot of that and more than what actually shows on the surface,” said Smith.

While an increase in business is to some degree at odds with seeking monetary damages, Dominion can still make the case that its growth has been thwarted, Niehoff said

“Dominion could have an argument that, although their business statements have gone up, it hasn’t gone up as much as it would’ve gone up, but for the defamatory statements.”


The Murdoch Grift – Is It Really About the Left? Justin Grantham, an attorney for the Colorado Department of Elections, says “Nothing’s going on”

Many conservatives around the country are sticking with the same policies even though voters don’t like them.

In rural Fremont County, Colorado, Justin Grantham recently renewed his country’s contract with Dominion. Grantham is a Republican and leads the Colorado County Clerks Association. He said audits consistently show that the Dominion machines accurately count ballots, and the cost and training to switch just wouldn’t be feasible.

“You’re talking about learning how to use the system, learning how to program the ballots in the election, learning how to just figure out the tabulation and the software and the hardware,” he said.

“You’re talking massive training requirements for something that’s used, oh gosh, once a year in the odd years and two to three times in the even years.”

Everything is coming up Murdoch! Succession is back, Dominion Voting Systems won’t drop its suit, and our boy may be open to further discovery.

We know power is motivating Murdoch. More audience means more money. The Murdoch family is all about power and money, and this is the main idea that Succession touches on.

Now, Fox News’ original grift was claiming to be “fair and balanced.” To make itself look less like the Republican Party’s propaganda department, the outlet chose to paint other outlets as being unfairly biased to the left. This was fairly successful! I think of it every time I’m told that The New York Times is a left-wing paper. In comparison to Fox News, yes. In comparison to actual left-wing outlets such as The New Republic or The American Prospect? Please.

People are right to be suspicious of “objective journalism” now. All journalism is biased because it is always written by humans, and we are, unfortunately, limited creatures. (AI isn’t going to fix this.) The majority of the important biases in journalism are related to recency, novelty, and reportability. Readers are correct to be suspicious of us.

When Donald Trump contacted Murdoch to accuse him of lying about the election: “What do rich people want to learn from their actions?”

And when Paul Ryan, former speaker of the House of Representatives, emailed Murdoch to rebuke him for broadcasting lies that the election had been stolen, Murdoch replied that Sean Hannity “has been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers.”

We’ve talked before about rich people and their politics. They don’t really believe anything and will say whatever will make them richer. The documents released so far in the Dominion suit back that up. If Murdoch woke up tomorrow with the idea that there was a lucrative audience for far-left socialism, I think Fox News would be more left-wing than ever. Fox Broadcasting Company, which was on The Simpsons and Married… with Children, isn’t exactly right-wing fare.

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