The defamation trial over the election lies begins in Delaware

The 2020 2020 Election Case: A Settlement of Fox News Media’s Controversy with the Ex-President Donald J. Dominion

The judge ruled that the company had tried to covertly engineer the loss of former President Donald Trump, as well as false claims about the company being involved in the election. Dominion still had to establish that the statements were made with “actual malice,” a high bar that would require demonstrating Fox knew the statements were false or seriously doubted them. While it’s difficult to meet the actual malice standard, Fox was widely understood to be in a weak position. The case surfaced text messages revealing that Fox News stars like Carlson were ambivalent about promoting Trump’s election lies, and just before the trial, it was sanctioned for withholding evidence.

Dominion Voting Systems alleges the conservative network promulgated the ex-president’s conspiracy theories, including about its voting machines, to avoid alienating its viewers and for the good of its bottom line.

The closely watched case won’t proceed to trial after the last-minute deal. Executives from Fox News, as well as on-air personalities, will be spared from testifying about their election coverage, which was filled with lies about voter fraud.

The drama expected to play out in a Delaware courtroom represents an extraordinary moment in modern American history because it could show how truth has been tarnished as a political currency and highlight a right-wing business model that depends on spinning an alternative reality. It’s not clear whether Trump will pay a personal or political price for his part in the 2020 election conspiracy.

In a statement, Fox News Media conceded parts of Dominion’s allegations in vague terms. “We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems,” it said. “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. Fox has a continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”

Investigating the case against a Democratic legislator for a second term in office: the CNN investigation of Fox campaign in the lead up to the Capitol insurrection

There are probes into his attempt to overturn the election of President Joe Biden by a district attorney in Georgia and his conduct in the lead-up to the US Capitol insurrection, both of which could result in indictments. The House select committee took public testimony and gave interviews when Democrats controlled the chamber last year.

The falsehood of a corrupt election is still the essence of Trump’s campaign to win back the White House. Millions of Trump’s supporters have bought into the idea that he was illegally ejected from office on the premise that he really won in 2020.

Conservative viewers of the media may not get sufficient information that will convince them to change their minds about 2020.

The fact that Trump is still spreading such lies, despite a lot of Republicans who are unwilling to contest him, irks some party leaders who watched as his handpicked candidates flame out in swing states last year.

Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp said on the CNN show on Sunday that the ex- president is forcing his party to look in the future and it is making them look at the past.

But the court proceeding against Fox – like the constitutional process that assured a transfer of power between Trump and Biden, albeit one marred by violence – shows that the country’s instruments of accountability remain intact, despite Trump’s efforts.

There have been a lot of embarrassments for both the network and the premise that there is anything to Trump’s false claims ahead of the trial.

“To go up there and say, ‘What Fox did was protected by the First Amendment,’ it’s half the story. He said that it is protected by the First Amendment if you can’t demonstrate malice.

Fox has said it never intentionally suppressed any evidence in the case. And, in a remarkable move, lawyers for the network sent an apology to the judge Friday, showing contrition and taking responsibility for the “misunderstanding” that led to the special master’s inquiry.

Fox personalities including Pirro and Mark Levin ginned up viewer anger ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, rally headlined by Trump at the Washington Mall to protest the scheduled congressional certification of Biden’s victory. Fox was worried after the U.S. Capitol was besieged by Trump’s supporters. Carlson said that the attack on Congress was done by the FBI and the left-wing group Antifa. There is no evidence on which to base such claims.

Fox News isn’t the only problem: Trump’s frustrations with Dominion’s legal team are rooted in the roots of conservative politics

This is not surprising. When he was in office, Trump told the world how he operated, in a moment of honesty.

Stay with us. He told his supporters at a veterans’ convention in Kansas City that they should not believe the fake news being spread by these people. What you are seeing and what you are reading is not what is happening.

We won in 2016 We won by much more in 2020 but it was rigged,” Trump said in the first big rally of his campaign in Waco, Texas, at the end of March.

If you look in the mirror for a long time while you’re driving, you’re going to end up running into someone.

Yet the fact that Trump, according to many polls, remains the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024 and is still wildly popular with conservative grassroots voters suggests that it will take far more than a courtroom display to restore the truth about 2020.

At the Republican National Committee’s spring retreat in Tennessee over the weekend, a swing-state GOP governor told major donors the party’s future political success depended in part on Fox News.

Despite his criticisms of Fox, Sununu does not appear to disdain the network. He made a brief appearance on the news program on Monday morning, less than 48 hours after he spoke in Nashville.

But, in case there was any doubt, the material gathered by Dominion’s legal team cements the image of Fox as an institution with a deeply ingrained conservative outlook and whose leaders are closely interwoven with Republican politics.

“We have to start thinking about the long game,” Sununu told Republican donors at the Four Seasons Hotel in Nashville. “We get ourselves tied up in issues. I’m not saying they’re not important, but they ain’t making the team bigger.”

Gop Governor: He Suggests Fox News to Break Out of Its Echo Chamber – A Sensitive Time for Fox

He said the party had an appealing “product” for voters, including younger voters, with an emphasis on low government regulation, low taxes, and local governmental control.

I talk with the leadership at Fox all the time, including on my radio show, Sununu said.

“I go, ‘Look guys, I saw a panel discussion with four panelists on Fox and they all were literally agreeing with each other… They are talking in the echo chamber. What are you trying to do to grow the team?

NPR obtained an audio recording of an excerpt of the talk from Lauren Windsor, a liberal activist and consultant, who acquired them from an attendee. The governor’s comments were verified by Vihstadt.

Sununu’s comments come at a sensitive time for Fox. Lawyers for the company are preparing for a six-week trial set to start on Tuesday, while also trying to negotiate a possible settlement with the company’s attorneys.


Rupert Murdoch and Fox News: Implications for the Electoral Process in Australia, the U.K., and the United States

It’s long been known that Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch has sought to influence elections in his native Australia, the U.K., and the U.S., both in his news pages and programs and behind the scenes. House Speaker Paul Ryan is on the corporate board of Fox Corp. The corporate parent of the network. (He was among those who argued that Fox had to release its embrace of election conspiracy theories).

And Trump drew from a roster of Fox personalities for appointments to his administration. Fox stars Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and others advised him off the air. (Dobbs would be forced out a day after another election tech company, Smartmatic, sued Fox in a $2.7 billion defamation claim.)

A Fox spokesman noted that the most Democrats and independents watch Fox, which is much larger than it’s peers.

Back in November 2020, NPR reported that Hannity invited RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on his show on the night before Biden would be projected to win the presidency.

An internal GOP memo to prepare McDaniel reflected full knowledge of what would be asked, setting out the specifics of the show’s lengthy opening segment — including its guests and subjects — and Hannity’s main points. They focused on the possibility of voter fraud.

In late September 2020, Murdoch warned Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, that the Biden campaign ads were better. The media magnate followed up on his email the next day, saying that his former wife helped to reconcile Kushner with his wife.

Biden in same football this Sunday, at 1.0 pm, an improvement. [game] is extremely good. Or I think so! Murdoch was in an email that was made public through legal proceedings.

On November 10th, a few days after Fox projected Biden’s win, star host Maria Bartiromo texted former Trump former chief political adviser Steve Bannon, “Omg I’m so depressed. I can’t take it.

A plan was not in the works for Bannon to stand still. He laid out a plan that included delegising Biden as president and getting Bartiromo elected to the Senate in New York.


Fox News & Dominion: A Final-Second Settlement in the 20th Century Fox News/Dominion Defamation Case

On Nov 14, 2020, Lachlan Murdoch warned Suzanne Scott about the tone of Fox’s coverage of a Trump rally.

“News guys have to be careful how they cover this rally,” Lachlan Murdoch wrote. “So far some of the side comments are slightly anti, and they shouldn’t be. The narrative should be this is a huge celebration of the president.”

On November 16, Rupert Murdoch affirmed his interest in aiding the Republican drive to win the Senate in an email to Scott: “Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can.”

“Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company, our employees, and the customers that we serve,” John Poulos, the CEO of Dominion Voting Systems, said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Nothing can ever be made up for that.

Private text messages and emails released as part of the case revealed that top executives simply didn’t believe the debunked conspiracy theories they were peddling on-air.

That is the heart of Dominion’s case. The company claims that Fox News allowed lies to be told in order to protect its business. (Fox denies this.)

But even with these setbacks, Fox may still prevail. The verdict must be unanimous in unpredictable Juries. The Delaware Supreme Court and possibly even the US Supreme Court are both represented by seasoned appellate attorneys on Fox’s legal team.

A last-second settlement has been reached in the historic defamation case between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems, the parties announced Tuesday in court.

The Fox News/Dominion Voting System Defamation Trial: Where Do We Stand? Why Do We Want to Disturb Fox News?

“Your presence here… was extremely important. And without you, the parties would not have been able to resolve their situation,” the judge told the jurors, before dismissing them.

The trial was on the verge of opening statements in Delaware when the settlement was brokered. The court halted proceedings for an unexplained hours-long delay after swearing in the jury, which again triggered rampant speculation that a deal was in the works.

The lawsuits against Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and other Trump allies are still pending.

Fox News and its parent company Fox Corp. have struck a deal averting a trial in the blockbuster defamation suit filed by the election tech company Dominion Voting Systems over spurious claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential race.

“As much evidence as we’ve seen, there still is plenty more that hasn’t been made public. In a trial, the documents and statements that have been redacted, which are likely to constitute some of the most damning evidence against Fox, would have been revealed,” said Tom Wienner, a retired Michigan corporate litigator who has been following the case closely at NPR’s request.

Past the ill will, past the statements that were clearly wrong in real time, past the inflammatory arguments and the soaring declarations of constitutional principle, a settlement always loomed as the logical resolution of the legal clash.

The legal team for the company intended to cause maximum distress to Fox and its owners in order to get as big a payoff as possible and to make an apology to the viewers of Fox News. It was worth the cost for Fox to have a spectacle so that it would go away.

Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott warned her colleagues against running fact-checking segments by the network’s own reporters debunking lies about election fraud, even as it gave such bogus claims acres of prime real estate.

Primetime stars Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity privately trashed the people who lied about Dominion on their network’s airwaves and yet also trashed the reporters who sought to hold them accountable for those lies.

Even though Murdoch endorsed the lies being peddled by Trump and Fox itself, the star didn’t believe them for a second.

Host Maria Bartiromo put on an attorney spinning pro-Trump conspiracy theories and insinuating, without evidence, fraud by Dominion on the basis of a memo whose author, a Minnesota artist, called her own allegations “pretty wackadoodle.”

The judge, known for his even-keeled demeanor on his bench, lost his cool with Fox’s lawyers as the trial neared.

Davis warned Fox attorneys that he felt misled once he learned, just a week before opening arguments, that Rupert Murdoch held the title “executive chairman” at Fox News — suggesting he had more agency over the network’s coverage and tone than it allowed. Fox said the title wasn’t meaningful for the network’s founder. It was also suspected that Fox’s lawyers may have acted unethically, as they moved to be appointed a special master to investigate their conduct.

Davis warned Murdoch that he wouldn’t look like an idiot if he were forced to testify in person. Murdoch just announced in his New York Post that he’s going to divide his time between his four homes in Montana, Los Angeles, New York city and London with his new bride-to-be. Murdoch called off the wedding which was to have been his fifth, but that did not seem to mitigate Davis’ irritation.

The Murdochs decided to pay an amount to stop the bleeding. Had they not done so, Rupert would have likely been subject to questioning in court. Network executives would have been forced to pick between testifying that they had no idea that their own reporters had debunked the Trump campaign’s false claims of election fraud or that they knew but allowed stars to give them credibility in front of millions of viewers.

The network also paid the family of the slain Democratic party aide Seth Rich an undisclosed settlement worth millions of dollars just before Hannity and former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs were set to be questioned by the Riches’ attorneys under oath.

Similarly, executives at the Walt Disney Co. and ABC breathed a sigh of relief after settling a case in 2017, in which ABC News had referred to a kind of processed beef as “pink slime.” The amount Disney paid was a tiny fraction of its possible exposure in South Dakota. ABC did not retract the story.

Defaming Fox News and Smartmatic: Kirtley and the Murdoch Propagation of Demographic Defamation in Arizona

When it comes to defamation, says Jane Kirtley, a former executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, there are two elements for media outlets in deciding to settle, one immediate and one grander.

Chen says that it’s difficult for a group of people to prove the news outlet acted with malice because they either knew what they were broadcasting was false or were unaware of it.

Kirtley says the more specific concern is about whether Fox will stomach a continuing parade of mortifying revelations, even if they don’t affect the outcome of the trial.

Fox News projected that Democratic presidential nominee Biden would win the state of Arizona. The network made a call to Trump, so his advisers tried to get it reversed. The network and the Murdochs stood by it.

Anchors such as Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum complained about the blowback from Trump’s inner circle and their own viewers and asked whether such projections could take audience sentiment into account in the future.

Two senior political editors involved in the projection of Arizona — Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon and political director Chris Stirewalt — were forced out at the urging of Rupert Murdoch. Fox called Sammon’s departure a retirement and Stirewalt’s part of a larger restructuring. Both characterizations were false.

Dobbs would be fired the day after a $2.7 billion defamation suit was filed against Fox by Smartmatic, another voting tech company falsely accused on Fox of participating in defrauding Trump of victory. (Smartmatic was only active in Los Angeles County during the 2020 elections, according to company officials and its lawsuit remains pending in federal court.) The exit was part of a post- election rejiggering.

Other journalists were laid off. Fox News gave two hours of programming to the conservative talk show host and comedian, Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld. Pirro was named a co-host of the top-rated weekday show “The Five” – a promotion from her weekend hosting slot. The two news shows were pushed to the outer fringe slots — MacCallum’s news show to 3 p.m., Shannon Bream to midnight.


Why did Howard Kurtz and Shepard Smith Leave Fox after the Jan. 6 Explosion? A Law Professor Says, “If You’re a Lawyer, You Can’t Win”

Ronald Chen, a Rutgers law professor, says litigation is not usually the way to get complete satisfaction in high-stakes defamation suits.

“By law, there’s a winner and a loser,” Chen says. “And where there’s a high risk for both the plaintiff and the defendant, settlement is very often the way both sides are both able to claim some type of victory.”

Howard Kurtz was the media host and correspondent for Fox. He finally told viewers he had been forbidden from covering it by his corporate bosses.

When Baier, Fox’s chief political anchor, repeatedly pitched devoting an hour-long special to debunking myths of election fraud, executives effectively ignored him: Baier did not receive a firm response.

Anchor Shepard Smith left the network in 2019 after being attacked on the air by Carlson and receiving no public backing from Fox. Wallace left Fox in late 2021 after Carlson’s lies about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Baier objected to Carlson’s programs about insurrectionists. But Baier protested quietly, in private. And he stuck around.

Are Fox Elections Legal? Investigating the Dominion Response to CNN News’ “Misleading Frauds in Voting Machines”

What is Dominion asking for? Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in damages. They think Fox lied to destroy its reputation and cause election officials to cancel their contracts. CNN reported on the increasing distrust in voting machines in Republican counties.

What are some of the things involved in a trial? The trial is going to last five to six weeks and will be overseen by the Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis. A jury is seated and there are 12 alternates.

There will be no video of the proceedings in the courtroom. There also won’t be any still photography inside the courtroom.

Who is expected to testify? Murdoch and his family, as well as Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace, will be expected to testify.

Both sides are also hoping to put on testimony from their handpicked experts who specialize in election statistics, the security of voting machines, journalism ethics, the impact of disinformation in public discourse, and more.

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