In a Delaware court starting Monday, Fox News executives and stars will have to defend themselves against the 2020 presidential election and create open wounds left in the body American democracy.
jury hearing Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 Billion Lawsuit Against Fox One specific question had to be answered: whether Fox was defaming the voting machine company by airing a false story claiming the election was against then-President Donald Trump, even though many in the network privately doubted the bogus claims made by Trump and his allies ?
However, a wider context looms.Judge will test press freedom And the reputation of a favorite news source for conservatives.It will also shed light on the flow of misinformation that helps spark U.S. Capitol Riot January 6, 2021 and keep going Trump hopes to return to power in 2024.
fox news star Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity and founder Rupert Murdoch Testimony is expected in the coming weeks.
Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday unless a last-minute settlement is reached.
“It’s Christmas Eve for defaming scholars,” said University of Utah law professor RonNell Andersen Jones.
If the trial had been a sporting event, Fox News would have gone on a losing streak, with key players injured and just alienating the referees. pretrial court ruling Fox followed with embarrassing revelations about its big names.
Court documents released over the past two months show that Fox executives, producers and celebrities privately distrust Trump’s claims of election fraud.But Dominion says Fox News is fear of alienating viewers The truth, especially after many viewers were outraged by the network’s decision to declare Democrat Joe Biden the winner in Arizona on election night in November 2020.
Several rulings by presiding Judge Eric Davis paved the way for Dominion.In summary judgment, Davis said it was “Crystal Clear” The allegations of fraud against the company are false. That means trial time won’t have to be spent rebutting the 2020 results at a time when millions of Republicans continue to doubt them.
Dominion’s reputation is also clearly damaged, Davis said, but it will be up to a jury to decide whether Fox “True Malice” – Legal Standards – If so, what is its economic value.
Fox witnesses may testify that they believe the allegations against Dominion are newsworthy, but Davis has made it clear that this does not defend defamation — and he will make sure the jury knows that.
New York law protects the news media from defamatory speech. But Davis methodically conducted 20 different discussions on Fox when the allegations against Dominion were discussed, ruling all of them to be considered statements of fact, in whole or in part, and fair to a potential defamation finding.
“Litigation is a bit of a home run,” said Cary Coglianese, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “You have to go through all the bases to get there.” The judge’s ruling “basically gives Dominion the spot at third base and all they have to do is go home and win it.”
Both Fox and Dominion are incorporated in Delaware, though Fox News is based in New York and Dominion is based in Denver.
Fox angered Davis last week when a judge said the network’s Lawyer delays in presenting evidence did not voluntarily disclose Murdoch’s role at Fox NewsOn Friday, Fox attorney Blake Rohrbacher sent Davis a letter of apology, saying it was a misunderstanding and not an intentional deception.
It was not immediately clear whether that would affect the trial. But Jones says it’s usually unwise to have a judge doubt at the start of a trial whether your side is telling the truth, especially when truth is the central point of the case.
The lawsuit essentially boils down to whether Dominion can prove that Fox put something on air knowing it was false, or whether it “recklessly ignored” whether it was true, proving that Fox acted with genuine malice. This is the most difficult hurdle for plaintiffs to overcome in most defamation cases.
Dominion could cite many examples where Fox’s data does not believe allegations made by Trump allies, such as Sydney Powell and Rudolph GiulianiBut Fox said many of the unbelievers couldn’t decide when the allegations would air.
“We thought it was critical for them to connect the dots,” said Fox attorney Erin Murphy.
A jury will decide whether someone as powerful as Murdoch — who testify in testimony He doesn’t believe the allegations of election fraud — which has affected the airing of those allegations.
“Credibility is always important in any trial in any situation. But in this case, it’s going to be very important,” said Jane Kirtley, director of the University of Minnesota’s Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law.
Kirtley worries that the lawsuit could eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could use it as an excuse to weaken the actual bad faith standard set in the 1964 New York Times Company v. Sullivan decision. This, she believes, would be disastrous for journalists.
Dominion’s lawsuit is being closely watched by another voting technology company A separate but similar case Against Fox News. Florida-based Smartmatic has used some of the ruling and evidence in the Dominion case to try to strengthen its $2.7 billion defamation suit in New York. Smartmatic Case Not Ready For Trial, But Already survived the fox news effort throw it away.
Many experts are surprised that Fox and Dominion have not yet settled out of court, although they could anytime soon. Presumably there is a huge financial divide. In court documents, Fox argued that the $1.6 billion damages claim was an overestimate.
Dominion’s motive may also be to cause maximum embarrassment to Fox by snooping on the network’s internal communications after the election. Text messages from January 2021 show Carlson telling a friend that he hate Trump can’t wait to move on.
Dominion may also seek an apology.
The trial had no noticeable impact on Fox News’ ratings; it remains the most-watched cable network.Fox media reporter Howard Kurtz said earlier this year that he has been Do not report lawsuits, but the network has since changed direction. Kurtz discussed the case on his show Sunday, saying he will be in Wilmington for the trial to begin.
“The real potential danger is if Fox viewers feel like they’re being ripped off. There’s a real downside to that,” said Charlie Sykes, founder of the Bulwark site and MSNBC contributor.
There has been little sign that the case has changed Fox’s editorial direction or slashed ratings.fox has hug trump again in recent weeks of former president Manhattan grand jury indictmentCarlson proposed Another History of the Capitol Riots, according to the tapes given to him House Speaker Kevin McCarthyR – California.
Just because Fox has had limited discussion of the Dominion lawsuit doesn’t mean its fans aren’t aware of it, said Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative watchdog Media Research Center.
“There’s a level of tribal reaction to this,” Graham said. “When all the other networks are excitedly disclosing text messages and emails, they see this as the latest attempt by the liberal media to undermine Fox News. There will be a backlash around Rupert.”
The trial is expected to last until late May.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.
David Bald, Associated Press
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