Rupert Murdoch, the head of the conservative media empire that includes Fox News, is running for the 2020 election against former President Donald J. He admitted in an affidavit that several hosts promoted a false story to his networks that he had stolen from Trump, and that he may have stopped them. No, court documents released Monday showed.
“They approved,” said Mr. Murdoch said under oath. “I wish we were stronger in condemning it in retrospect,” he added, while Mr. He also revealed that he was skeptical of Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud from the beginning.
Asked if he doubted Mr. Trump, Mr. Murdoch replied: “Yes. I mean, we thought everything would get better. At the same time, he rejected accusations that Fox News endorsed the stolen election narrative as a whole. “Not Fox,” he said. “No. Not Fox.”
Mr. Murdoch’s comments add to the evidence that Dominion is gathering in an effort to prove its central charge: that the people who run the country’s most popular news network are Mr. Trump’s claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election were false, but aired them anyway in reckless pursuit of ratings and profit.
Evidence of that would help the Dominion clear a high bar imposed by the Supreme Court on defamation cases. To prevail, Dominion must show that Fox not only broadcast false information, but that it did so knowingly. A judge in Delaware state court has scheduled a month-long trial beginning in April.
New documents and A similar block Published this month, it offers a dramatic account from within the network, Mr. It depicts a frenzied fight as Fox tries to win back its large conservative audience after ratings slumped in the wake of Trump’s loss. Joseph R. on election night. Fox was the first network to call Arizona for Biden — essentially declaring him the next president. Mr. When Trump refused to agree and began attacking Fox as disloyal and dishonest, viewers began to change the channel.
The records also revealed that officials and air hostesses reacted with incredulity bordering on contempt to various fanciful allegations about Dominion. It included unsubstantiated rumors — repeated by guests and hosts of Fox shows — that its voting machines could operate a secret mechanism to shift votes from one candidate to another, and that the company was founded in Venezuela to help the country’s longtime leader, Hugo Chávez. , adjust elections.
Despite those doubts, Mr. Dobbs and Ms. There was little change in the content of programs like Bartiromo’s. For weeks after the election, viewers of Fox News and Fox Business heard a completely different story than the one Fox executives had privately admitted.
Lawyers for Fox News, which filed a response to Dominion in court on Monday, argued that its commentary and reporting after the election were not defamatory because its hosts did not endorse lies about Dominion, Mr. Deposition. Therefore, the network’s lawyers argued, Fox’s coverage was protected under the First Amendment.
Fox News v. Dominion Voter Systems
“Instead of reporting the allegations as true, the hosts told their viewers at every turn that the allegations were mere allegations that would need to be proven in court in short order if they were going to affect the outcome of the election,” Fox lawyers said. their filing. “To the extent that some patrons comment on the allegations, that commentary is independently protected opinion.”
In response to a Fox News spokesperson’s filing Monday, Dominion took an “extreme, unsupportive view of defamation law preventing journalists from doing basic reporting.”
In some cases, the Fox hosts offered their opinions, presenting the allegations as unproven. When Fox lawyers challenged the hosts’ claims, Trump’s lawyers, Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. They pointed to the on-air exchanges when Giuliani was pressed to produce evidence that never materialized.
But the case could revolve around questions about what those with the power to shape Fox’s on-air content knew about the validity of the fraud allegations as they gave a platform to pro-Trump election detractors. Push back.
“Dominion can make a strong case based on the evidence they found that Fox employees acted with actual harm,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
This document Mr. It shows Murdoch as a leader who was deeply engaged with his senior leadership about news of the election and did not want to interfere. Asked by Dominion’s attorney, Justin Nelson, Ms. Powell and Mr. Asked if Fox News could have ordered Trump lawyers like Giuliani off the air, Mr. Murdoch replied: “I can. But I didn’t.
In Dominion’s latest filing, former Republican Speaker of the House and current member of Fox Corporation’s board of directors, Paul D. Ryan, Mr. The affidavit described how Murdoch and his son Lachlan, the chief executive, pleaded with him. Fox News should not spread conspiracy theories. Mr. Ryan suggested instead that the network pivot and “move on from Donald Trump and stop spreading election lies.”
There was some discussion at the highest levels of the company about how to build that center, Dominion said.
On January 5, 2021, the day before the Capitol attack, Fox News Media Chief Executive Mr. Murdoch and Suzanne Scott, Mr. Hannity and his fellow prime-time hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham spoke about , Mr. It should be clear to the audience that Biden won the election. Mr. In his affidavit, Murdoch said he believed such a statement “would go a long way to dispel the Trump myth that the election was stolen.”
According to the filing, Ms. Scott said of the hosts, “Personally they’re all there,” but “we have to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the audience.” No such statement was made on air.
The Dominion filings describe the close relationship that Fox hosts and executives enjoyed with senior Republican officials and members of Trump’s inner circle, revealing at times how Fox shaped the story that covered it. Immediately after the election, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, Mr. It describes how Murdoch made the call. In his statement, Mr. Murdoch, during the call, asked Mr. Trump to “ask other senior Republicans to refuse to endorse Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories and baseless claims of fraud.” He urged McConnell.
At one point, Dominion’s lawyers accused Ms. Pero, who hosted a Saturday evening talk show, of “laundering her own conspiracy theories through Powell.” The filing goes on to say that Ms. Biro bragged to friends that she was “proof of Powell’s claims.” Dominion notes that it’s “something she doesn’t share with the audience.”
Monday’s filing included an affidavit from Fox Corp.’s chief legal officer, Viet Dinh. On November 5, 2020 Mr. After Hannity warned his audience that it was “impossible to know the true, fair, accurate election results,” Mr. Tin warned. and Mrs. Scott: “Hannity is very close with his commentary and guests tonight.”
Asked at his deposition whether Fox executives had a duty to stop the show’s hosts from broadcasting falsehoods, Mr. Tin said: “Yes, prevent and correct known falsehoods.”
In their filing Monday, Fox’s lawyers accused Dominion of cherry-picking evidence that some people at Fox News knew the allegations against Dominion were untrue and therefore acted with actual malice, the legal standard required to prove defamation.
“Much of Dominion’s evidence comes from people who have zero responsibility for Dominion’s claims,” the lawyers said.