Fox pays $787 to settle Dominion lawsuit over election fraud lies
New York, Apr 18 (EFE).- Fox News on Tuesday agreed to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems at the last moment to avoid going to trial and defending itself against the voting machine firm’s accusations that the television news organization defamed it by spreading lies about alleged fraud in the 2020 US presidential election.
The settlement amount is a little less than half the $1.6 billion in damages Dominion had been seeking in its lawsuit filed in March 2021 against the conservative cable news outlet for its lies to back then-President Donald Trump’s claim that the company had allegedly influenced the result of the 2020 presidential vote that was won by Democrat Joe Biden.
“The truth matters,” said Dominion attorney Justin Nelson upon announcing the settlement. “Lies have consequences,” he insisted in remarks to reporters.
The unexpected agreement, about which as yet no further details are known, was announced by the judge overseeing the pending trial in Delaware, for which jury selection was scheduled to begin on Tuesday and both sides were slated to give their opening arguments.
“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,” said Fox News in a statement, adding that the firm recognizes the court’s finding that certain statements made by Fox were “false” but saying that the settlement “reflects Fox’s commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”
After the November 2020 election, Trump – who had been running for reelection – reiterated on multiple occasions his claim, which was rejected by numerous courts for lack of evidence, that electoral fraud had been committed, thus ensuring Biden’s victory.
A large number of Trump’s advisors, including his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, defended the president’s claim, according to which – they said – Dominion’s voting machines supposedly “changed” Trump votes into Biden votes.
Fox News, the most-watched news network in the US, provided broad coverage of those accusations of fraud and several of its star anchors and media personalities provided credibility to their viewers for Trump’s claims.
The trial had been scheduled to kick off on Tuesday and had aroused enormous expectation in the US, where it’s very unusual for defamation claims against media outlets to make it to court, with most such cases being settled prior to going to trial.
In general, plaintiffs have an uphill battle in such cases because the US Constitution and the First Amendment provide broad protection for the press against potential reporting mistakes and obligate plaintiffs to prove that the media outlet acted intentionally and with malice to cause harm.
Dominion’s basis for its suit were the numerous internal messages among Fox reporters, anchors and executives in which they clearly said that they did not believe Trump’s accusations of election fraud that their own firm was fueling among its viewers.
Those communications, which came to light during the preparation of the case, included messages sent by Tucker Carlson, one of the best-known Fox News personalities, who – while his program gave considerable airtime to Trump’s complaints and said that at least some of them were credible – in parallel text messages called them absurd and harshly criticized the people who were promoting them.
Expected to testify at the trial had been news presenters and top Fox executives, including media magnate Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the media empire of which Fox is a part.
Although the network had resolved this case, it is facing yet another lawsuit, this one in a New York court filed by the Smartmatic election systems firm, which is demanding $2.7 billion in damages from Fox for involving it in the alleged election fraud claims without providing any proof.