In the months leading up to the 2020 US presidential election, the right wing TV news A Wild West in America, an apparently lawless free-for-all, where voting machines, suitcases stuffed with ballots, and conspiracy theories about dead Venezuelan leaders are repeated 24 hours a day to viewers.
Broadcasting the most outrageous ideas in prime time seemed to have little effect.
But now, unfortunately Fox NewsIt turns out that One America News Network (OAN), and Newsmax, are not immune to this brave, new world of legal jurisdiction – all three networks are now facing billion-dollar lawsuits as a result of their baseless allegations.
In June, the Dominion Voting System was approved, providing voting machines to 28 states. To sue Fox CorpA case that could put Fox News’ parent company, Rupert Murdoch, and his son Lachlan in the spotlight.
In the $1.6bn suit, Dominion accuses Fox Corp and the Murdochs, specifically, of allowing Fox News to propagate false claims that the company voted for Joe Biden and rigged the election.
Fox Corp. tried to dismiss the case, but a Delaware judge said Dominion had shown enough evidence to proceed. Dominion has already sued Fox News and OAN and Newsmax.
“These allegations support a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either did not know that Dominion manipulated the election or that Fox News was in complete disregard of the truth when it caused its claims about Dominion to be propagated,” Judge Eric Davis said. said.
Davis’ ruling is no guarantee that Fox will be held liable. But the judge made it clear that this was no frivolous effort by Dominion — and media and legal experts think Fox could be in real trouble.
“Dominion has a very strong case against Fox News — and against OAN,” said Ciara Torres-Spellici, a professor who teaches constitutional law. at Stetson University and a colleague Brennan Center for JusticeAn impartial law and policy institute.
“The reason Dominion is suing is because Fox and other right-wing news outlets have been repeating vicious lies that Dominion’s voting machines stole the 2020 election from Trump to Biden. But all these conspiracy theories about Dominion’s machines were just bogus, and Fox as a news organization should have known that and the big lie. Megaphone does not provide this feature.
“What’s especially bad for Fox is that [that] Dominion asked them to stop and correct the recording in real time, and Fox continued to misrepresent the voting machine company.
Indeed, Davis noted in his ruling that “other newspapers controlled by Rupert Murdoch, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, condemned President Trump’s claims and urged him to concede defeat.”
In a statement, a Fox News spokesperson said: “Restricting the ability of the press to freely report on the US election process is diametrically opposed to the liberties this country was founded on, and we believe we will prevail in this case. The First Amendment is the foundation of our democracy and freedom of the press must be protected.”
A possible precedent can be seen in the case of Dominion v Fox in the recent case involving Sarah Palin. sued the New York Times. Palin said the newspaper maliciously damaged his reputation by falsely linking his campaign rhetoric to a mass shooting. In February A judge stood by With the Times, a Times employee did not act against a public figure with “actual malice” or with “reckless disregard” for the truth — criteria necessary to prove defamation.
But Torres-Spellici said the Times victory shouldn’t give Fox too much confidence.
“In Paul’s case, the New York Times quickly corrected an error about Palin that was added when it edited an article,” Torres-Spellici said.
“Instead, Fox News continued to misbehave and repeat myths about Dominion’s voting machines. This may be why the judges in many of these Dominion defamation cases did not dismiss them.
Dominion isn’t the only company seeking damages from Fox and its contemporaries.
Smartmatic is an election software company that provides accurate voting software A district 2020 elections but is subject to claims that it was set up by allies of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013, “for the specific purpose of fixing elections”. case Fox Corp, Fox News and Associates $2.7bn.
However, Fox News is the most-watched and arguably the most influential cable news channel in America, and it may be too big to fail.
But not so for the smaller right-wing networks OAN and Newsmax The case was continued By Dominion and Smartmatic – In June, a Delaware judge refused Newsmax’s motion to dismiss Dominion’s case, however, does not weigh in on whether Newsmax is innocent or guilty.
“I think OAN will be wiped out from litigation costs. Forget any judgment,” said president and chief executive Angelo Carusone. Media for AmericaIt monitors the right-wing media.
“We’re already starting to see, they’re scaling back programming, they’re laying off staff, they’re reducing the number of programs. So it’s clear they don’t have enough resources to deal with the long-term case.
Carusone said Newsmax, which is still run by DirecTV, is “relatively cash-strapped” compared to OAN — enough to survive a probe if Dominion and Smartmatic don’t pay the billions of dollars they’re demanding.
In a statement, Newsmax said, “We have reported on allegations made by President Trump and his surrogates, and at no time did we suggest that these allegations were true. We also reported on critics of Trump’s claims.
It added: “The Dominion case is an attack on a free press and, if it prevails, will endanger all press outlets.”
OAN did not respond to a request for comment.
For Fox, the most important thing is if the Murdochs are subject to discovery — they and Fox could be forced to hand over potential documents, including communications data — as part of the legal process, Carzone said.
Text messages received by the commission on January 6 have already revealed that there was communication between them Fox News anchors and White House officials As for rebellion – that alone doesn’t seem to have been discussed.
“What you’re going to find is that once you start pulling the material of the discovery, there was a lot of communication between the Trump people internally and externally about pushing very specific lies and stories,” Carusone said.
Although Fox is financially more comfortable than OAN and NewsMax, it is not vulnerable. Fox News is set to renegotiate its contracts with cable providers later this year, and Carusone said the cable companies could use the lawsuit to lower prices.
The Dominion and Smartmatic cases are likely to drag on for some time, and it remains to be seen how Fox News, OAN and NewsMax will react.
As for conspiracy claims of election rigging by news channels, at least that’s already settled.
Courts, Judiciary, Electoral Officers They investigated and fired The allegations are similar to those of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“The November 3 election was the safest in American history,” the agency said said In a statement in 2020.
“While we know there are many unsubstantiated claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you that we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too.”
Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, put it in less subtle terms.
Allegations of election interference, see said January 6 Committee, “absurd”.
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”