Jury decides Dominion defamation case against Fox News

By Marshall Cohen and Oliver Darcy | CNN

Dominion Voting Systems’ historic defamation case against Fox News will advance to a high-level jury next month, a Delaware judge ruled Friday, declining to declare a pre-trial winner.

Both sides had asked Delaware Superior Court Justice Eric Davis for a pretrial ruling in their favor, and as of this writing, declared them the winner and averted a trial. But after thousands of pages of files and exhibits and a series of clashes in Wilmington courtrooms, Davis decided the case should go to trial.

But in Friday’s ruling, Davis said the evidence presented by Dominion shows Fox News has been spreading falsehoods about the company.

“The evidence developed in this civil case shows that it is clear to KRISTALL that none of the statements made regarding Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” Davis wrote.

“We are pleased with the court’s thorough ruling, which dismisses all of Fox’s arguments and defenses and rightfully finds that their statements about Dominion are false. We look forward to going to court,” a Dominion spokesman said in a statement.

“In this case, what was, and always has been, been about the First Amendment’s protection of the media’s absolute right to report the news. FOX will continue to vigorously defend freedom of expression and a free press as we move into the next phase of this process,” a Fox spokesman said in a statement.

The selection of the jury is scheduled for April 13th.

It was always unlikely that either side would prevail at this stage of the process.

Barring an out-of-court settlement — which is always possible — Davis’ verdict means the jury must determine whether Fox News defamed Dominion by repeatedly disseminating false claims that the voting technology company rigged the 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump .

Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corporation, deny any wrongdoing and have argued that their post-election 2020 conspiracy theory-filled programs were protected under the First Amendment because they merely reported “current allegations.”

Your legal liability will be determined in a court proceeding. But the case has already damaged Fox’s reputation.

Incriminating texts and emails have shown that Fox executives, presenters and producers did not believe the claims the network was making about Dominion. Those revelations drove a dagger through the idea that Fox News is anything but a partisan GOP operation focused on ratings — not journalism.

The lawsuit is considered one of the most momentous cases of defamation in recent memory. Fox has argued that a loss would erode freedom of the press, and some scholars agree that the bar should be set high for proving libel. Other analysts have said holding Fox accountable for knowingly spreading lies that would never pose a threat to objective journalists in the first place.

The case has produced a mountain of evidence that exposes Fox News as a right-wing profit-making machine that lacks the most basic journalistic ethics — and is willing to promote twisted electoral conspiracy theories to sustain its lucrative business.

Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted in his testimony that several of his top hosts supported election lies on the air that he knew were false. And after the 2020 election, its most prominent stars and top executives privately blasted the conspiracy theories that were being circulated on the air, according to internal text messages and email exchanges made public as part of the lawsuit.

The legal filings revealed how concerned Fox News executives and anchors were about losing viewership to Newsmax, a smaller right-wing talks channel that saturated its airwaves with election denial.

After the election, an angry Donald Trump attacked Fox News and encouraged his supporters to switch to Newsmax. And in the days and weeks after the presidential campaign was called, they did just that. Fox News lost some of its audience while Newsmax gained a sizable viewership, causing panic in the building and prompting the network’s leadership to embrace voter denialism, the covered a large part of the Republican Party.

In several cases, Fox News executives and anchors began cracking down on those on the network who fact-checked election lies, private messages revealed in court filings showed. In one instance, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity exchanged messages about an attempt to fire White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich for checking a tweet about alleged voter fraud. In another instance, when host Neil Cavuto interrupted a White House press conference spreading false election information, senior Fox News leaders were told that such a move posed a “brand threat.”

Regardless of what appeared on the air, Fox News executives and anchors have privately criticized the Trump camp for making allegations of voter fraud. Hannity said Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney at the time, “acted like a crazy person,” and Ingraham described him as “an idiot.” Rupert Murdoch said it was “really bad” that Giuliani was advising Trump.

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/03/31/jury-will-decide-dominion-defamation-case-against-fox-news/ Jury decides Dominion defamation case against Fox News

Adam Bradshaw

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