Fox News $1.6bn defamation battle over 2020 election claims heads to court
Fox News is expected in court today over claims it falsely accused a voting technology company of rigging the 2020 US presidential election.
The controversial cable news channel’s parent company Fox Corp faces a $1.6bn (£1.28bn) defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems.
The lawsuit is part of a growing body of legal action filed by the voting company and other targets of misleading, false and bizarre claims spread by President Donald Trump and his allies in the aftermath of Trump’s election loss to Joe Biden.
Dominion argues that Fox News made the claims in order to boost its faltering TV ratings.
It claims the news channel amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes and “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process”, according to a copy of the lawsuit.
“The truth matters. Lies have consequences,” the lawsuit said. “If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”
Founded in 2002, Dominion Voting Systems produces and sells electronic voting hardware and software.
Included in hundreds of pages of testimony, made public ahead of the trial, are slews of private text messages and emails from top Fox News journalists and executives.
Among them was a message from Fox News host Tucker Carlson on 4 January, 2021.
At this point, Fox News was in a difficult situation after having angered its audience when it correctly called the state of Arizona for Joe Biden on election night.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” he texted an unidentified person.
“I hate him passionately… I can’t handle much more of this,” he added.
The private comments were a far cry from what Carlson’s viewers were used to hearing from the stalwart conservative host on his prime-time show every night.
“We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest,” he wrote in another text message, referring to the “last four years”. “But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.”
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The role of Rupert Murdoch and other top Fox executives is reportedly at the heart of Dominion’s defamation case.
There was no known widespread fraud in the 2020 election, despite repeated – and sometimes bizarre – claims made by people loyal to Donald Trump.
In a statement in 2021, Fox News Media said: “Fox News Media is proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism, and we will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”