Fox Knew Vote-Fraud Claim Was Bogus, Aired Anyway, Dominion Says

The voting-machine company falsely accused of rigging the 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump said it uncovered “a mountain of direct evidence” that Fox News knew the conspiracy theory was bogus even as it broadcast the claims over and over.

(Bloomberg) — The voting-machine company falsely accused of rigging the 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump said it uncovered “a mountain of direct evidence” that Fox News knew the conspiracy theory was bogus even as it broadcast the claims over and over.

Dominion Voting Systems Inc. said in a filing Thursday that depositions of Fox Corp. executives including Rupert Murdoch and on-air personalities such as Laura Ingraham demonstrate network insiders were overwhelmed with doubt about the conspiracy theory. TV host Tucker Carlson said in a text after the election that former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, who was frequently appearing on Fox shows, was an “unguided missile” and “dangerous as hell.”

“Fox knew,” according to Dominion, which is seeking $1.6 billion in damages in its defamation suit. “From the top down, Fox knew ‘the dominion stuff’ was ‘total bs.’”

The lawsuit, set for trial in April, is part of the fallout from a vast conspiracy theory pushed by Trump and his allies after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden. The claim helped trigger the Capitol riot by a mob of Trump supporters and remains part of the former president’s stump speeches as he makes a third run for the White House. 

Dominion has for months been gathering evidence and testimony to help prove its allegation that Fox News and parent company Fox Corp. recklessly allowed the network to repeatedly air provably false claims — that Dominion intentionally flipped millions of votes away from Trump in cooperation with corrupt Democrats, foreign hackers and software linked the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

“Privately, Fox’s hosts and executives knew that Donald Trump lost the election and that he needed to concede,” Dominion said. “But Fox viewers heard a different story — repeatedly.”

Thursday’s heavily redacted filing by Dominion — a so-called motion for summary judgment — asks the judge to grant final victory to the company without a trial based on the strength of the evidence so far. Fox News and its parent will also seek summary judgment in a motion due Feb. 27.

Free-Speech Case

“There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan,” Fox News said in a statement.

“Dominion’s motion for summary judgment takes an extreme and unsupported view of defamation law and rests on an accounting of the facts that has no basis in the record,” Fox said. “Dominion has mischaracterized the record, cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context, and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law.”

A judge in June 2022 denied Fox Corp.’s motion to dismiss, finding Dominion had properly alleged that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch may have acted with “actual malice” in directing the network to broadcast the conspiracy theory. The judge noted a report that Rupert Murdoch had spoken to Trump a few days after the election “and informed him that he had lost.”

Election Conspiracy

On Thursday, Dominion said internal Fox email and text messages back its claim that the network pivoted to the conspiracy theory to retain and attract viewers who were upset when Fox became the first network on election night to call the vote count in Arizona for Biden. 

“Getting creamed by CNN!” Rupert Murdoch wrote to Scott. “Guess our viewers don’t want to watch it.”

Carlson texted his producer with a warning: “Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience? We’re playing with fire, for real….an alternative like newsmax could be devastating to us.”

That’s when Maria Bartiromo started hosting Powell, one of the architects of the conspiracy theory, despite receiving emails from the attorney that cited just one source for her theory — someone who explained that she gets her information from experiencing something “like time-travel in a semi-conscious state,” allowing her to “see what others don’t see, and hear what others don’t hear,” according to the filing.

“At her deposition, Bartiromo admitted that this email is ‘not evidence’ for Powell’s claims, and indeed was ‘nonsense’ and ‘inherently unreliable,’” Dominion said in the filing.

Giuliani Press Conference

Murdoch weighed in on the conspiracy theory as he watched an unhinged Nov. 19, 2020, press conference by Powell and then-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who attempted to explain the alleged election scheme.

“Watching Giuliani!” Murdoch, who at times attended twice-daily editorial meetings, said in the subject heading of an email. “Really crazy stuff,” he wrote. “And damaging.”

Murdoch on Jan. 5, 2021, told Fox News Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Scott that there had been suggestions that the network’s prime time coverage should indicate that “the election is over and Joe Biden won” and that such a statement “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen.” That didn’t happen.

“Despite the internal recognition that the election was over, Fox did not retract its claims about Dominion,” the voting-machine company said in the filing. “Instead, it kept defaming Dominion. To this day, Fox has never retracted the false statements it broadcast about Dominion.”

‘Insane, Nonsense’

Fox News host Dana Perino described the conspiracy theory in texts and emails at the time as “total bs,” “insane,” and “nonsense,” according to the filing. Chris Stirewalt, who was Fox News politics editor during the election, testified he believed that by Nov. 7, 2020, “there was no way anybody could think that Donald Trump had really won the election.”

About 10 days after the election, Ingraham’s producer investigated the claims against Dominion “and easily concluded they were false,” Dominion said.

“Ingraham herself testified that she has no basis to believe Dominion committed election fraud by rigging the 2020 Presidential Election or that it is owned by a company founded in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chavez,” Dominion said in the filing.

Fox News and several of its personalities also face a lawsuit by Smartmatic Corp., a Dominion competitor that was also falsely accused on-air of rigging the election against Trump. A New York appeals court this week upheld a ruling denying Fox’s motion to dismiss the suit and reinstated claims that had been dismissed against Rudy Giuliani and Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro.

Separately on Thursday, Fox News filed new details to a counter-claim against Dominion that accuses the company of violating a New York law against using litigation to chill free speech. Central to that claim is Fox’s contention that Dominion is seeking inflated damages in the case to benefit the company and private equity owner, Staple Street Capital Partners. Evidence gathered in the discovery process backs that up, Fox alleges.

“Dominion could not possibly suffer damages in that amount, let alone suffer such damages because of a single press outlet’s coverage of a story that was reported by media throughout the world. Nor did it,” Fox said. “Documents produced in discovery show that Dominion is in a solid financial position, maintaining substantial cash, carrying no debt, and producing a steady return on investment to Staple Street.”

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