Fox owner Rupert Murdoch called stolen US election lawsuits “insane,” court filings show

Rupert Murdoch described allegations that the 2020 US election was stolen by Donald Trump as “harmful” and “crazy”, although his broadcaster Fox News continued to air the claims, according to filings of a defamation lawsuit against the network.

The billionaire media mogul, who owns Fox, repeatedly emailed his concerns to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott in the chaotic weeks and months after the election, when some US states took days to count the votes and Trump railed that the process had been tampered with the filing.

The news was part of a court filing by voting technology group Dominion asking a Delaware judge to rule in his favor on a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against Fox in March 2021 for defamation.

In recent months, the company has fired Murdoch, as well as several key figures on the network, over his election reporting, in which some Trump allies, including attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, have alleged that voting machines made by Dominion had been tampered with and that the company was functioning for Hugo Chávez, the late Venezuelan leader.

On November 19, 2020, during a press conference held by Giuliani and Powell in which they alleged that “mass fraud” took place in the election, Murdoch wrote: “Awful things that hurt everyone I’m afraid,” according to the news reports cited in the filing. Scott replied, “Yes, Sean [Hannity] and even [Jeanine] Pirro agrees,” referring to two Fox Primetime presenters.

In a separate email with the subject “Watching Giuliani!” Murdoch wrote, “Really crazy stuff. And harmful.”

In Thursday’s court filings, lawyers for Dominion portrayed Fox News as trying to cover the election while revealing internal concerns that right-wing audiences were dwindling after Trump’s election loss.

Fox News said in a statement in response to the filing, “Dominion and its opportunistic private equity owners will cause a lot of noise and confusion, but at the heart of this case remains freedom of the press and speech, fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and by the New York.” Times to be protected against Sullivan.”

Fox added that the court would not be able to file a full answer until February 27.

Dominion’s 192-page motion, which is partially redacted, included several instances in which Murdoch, 91, expressed concern about Fox’s coverage of the election, as did numerous other executives, producers and presenters.

“Very hard to credibly claim foul anywhere,” Murdoch wrote to Scott on Nov. 6, when votes were still being tallied but the results looked favorable to Biden. “If Trump turns into a bad loser, we should watch out for Sean [Hannity] special and others don’t sound the same.”

On November 8, the day after Fox and others called Biden’s election, Murdoch emailed Scott: “CNN scooped! I guess our viewers don’t want to see it.”

After Fox News continued to spread allegations of voter fraud, star anchorman Laura Ingraham’s producer wrote to a Fox executive, “This Dominion shit is gonna give me a friggin’ aneurysm,” the filing states.

The filings quoted his Fox colleague Tucker Carlson as telling Ingraham on November 18, “By the way, Sidney Powell is lying. I caught her. That’s crazy.” Ingraham replied, “Sidney is a complete nut.”

On Jan. 5, 2021, Murdoch told Scott, “It has been suggested that our prime time three” — a reference to Hannity, Carlson, and Ingraham — “should independently or collectively say something like, ‘The election is over and Joe Biden has won ‘” and so on. Such a statement “would go a long way in stopping the Trump myth of the election [was] stolen”.

The day after this e-mail, Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in Washington and tried to prevent the official election results from being authenticated.

Sometime after the deadly riot, Murdoch told Scott, “All very well for Sean [Hannity] to tell you he was desperate about Trump, but what did he say to his viewers? it said in the court documents.

Forwarding the email to another Fox executive, Scott said: “I’ve told Rupert that privately they’re all there – we have to be careful using the shows and upsetting viewers but they know how to navigated.”

Legal experts say Dominion faces an uphill battle due to strong U.S. intelligence agencies over discourse on matters of public interest. A judge has scheduled a jury trial for later this year.

Dominion has filed several defamation lawsuits in the wake of the 2020 election, alleging that its business was severely damaged by false allegations of voter fraud. Other defendants include Powell, Giuliani and conservative news outlets OAN and Newsmax.

Another voting machine manufacturer, Smartmatic, has filed similar lawsuits. Fox owner Rupert Murdoch called stolen US election lawsuits “insane,” court filings show

Adam Bradshaw

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