Fox News Faces $1.6 Billion Dominion Voting Defamation Suit
(Bloomberg) -- Dominion Voting Systems Inc. filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging it “gave life” to a bogus conspiracy theory that the voting-machine company helped steal the election from Donald Trump.
Fox embraced and broadcast “devastating lies” about Dominion in order to keep viewers from fleeing to more conservative news outlets that were giving unwavering support to Trump’s false claims of election fraud, Dominion said in its complaint.
“Even though the lies about Dominion were inherently implausible and verifiably false when first made, Fox elevated and lent credibility to these lies on the airwaves of Fox, which in turn fueled the recirculation of those lies through digital and social media,” Dominion said in the complaint in state court in Delaware.
“Fox News Media is proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism, and will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court,” the company said in a statement.
‘No Reasonable Person’
It’s the latest defamation suit by Dominion, which has previously sued Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell and MyPillow Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell, all of whom appeared on television to falsely accuse Dominion of stealing millions of votes from Trump. Powell is seeking to dismiss the suit against her, saying “no reasonable person” would believe her claims were “statements of fact.”
Nancy Costello, director of the First Amendment Clinic at Michigan State University, said Fox News could lose the case, even taking into account the wide latitude afforded the media under the U.S. Constitution’s free speech protections. Fox fell 5.9% on Friday amid a sell-off in media stocks caused by analysts warning the companies were overvalued and optimism about their streaming prospects was overdone.
“When you’re in situation where news outlets begin reporting over and over and over again news that wasn’t verified or accurate, then you have a problem, because then what you’re doing is spreading propaganda,” said Costello, who isn’t involved in the case.
Fox News on Friday provided a list of journalists who had said on-air that there was no voter-fraud conspiracy, and noted that a Dominion representative appeared on the network in November to defend the company.
Dominion has raised the possibility of suing Trump himself. In December, it sent a letter to the White House asking that documents be preserved for possible litigation. It sent similar letters to Fox News and competing conservative media outlets like One America News and Newsmax as well as individual commentators.
Fox has the deepest pockets of the defendants Dominion has targeted so far -- Fox Corp. had revenue of around $12 billion last year and Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s fortune is estimated at $9 billion. The suit seeks $600 million in lost profit and at least $1 billion in lost enterprise value. All three of Dominion’s earlier suits seek $1.3 billion each.
“The disinformation campaign waged against our company has caused us severe damage,” Dominion Chief Executive Officer John Poulos said in a statement. “These lies also have threatened the personal safety of our employees and customers.”
Fox News and some of its anchors were sued by Smartmatic Corp., another voting machine company, in February. The network has moved to dismiss that suit, saying its reporting is protected by the First Amendment.
Dominion alleges Fox began spreading voter-fraud lies after incurring Trump’s wrath for being the first network to call the battleground state of Arizona for Joe Biden. The company began shedding viewers and losing stock value almost immediately after Trump attacked the company on Twitter, according to the suit.
“In the face of intense backlash and viewers beginning to flee to rival networks, Fox understood that it needed to embrace and amplify the lies that had begun to circulate about Dominion,” the complaint says.
The lies were spread by on-air personalities Maria Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, as well as their guests, according to the suit. Fox canceled Dobbs’s show shortly after Smartmatic sued, saying the move was part of changes that had been in the works for its post-election lineup.
According to Dominion’s complaint, Fox knew the surge in mail-in voting due to the pandemic would likely help Biden and spent “considerable airtime” before the election looking for ways to taint absentee ballots with fraud. Dominion claims Fox undertook the effort because Trump made it clear that his supporters needed to echo his false claims of voter fraud “or face his wrath.” That effort started even before Dominion became the focus of the claims.
“The tone and tenor was clear: supporters of President Trump -- and President Trump himself -- were looking for a scapegoat,” Dominion claimed. “Fox was happy to oblige.”
The case is US Dominion v. Fox News Network, N21C-03-257 EMD, Delaware Superior Court (New Castle County).
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