Dominion Defamation Suit Against Fox Can Move Forward
(Bloomberg) -- Fox News probably had enough information after the 2020 presidential election to know a conspiracy theory claiming Dominion Voting Systems Inc. rigged the contest was false, a judge said in denying the network’s request to dismiss a defamation lawsuit.
Delaware state court Judge Eric M. Davis on Thursday ruled Dominion had presented enough factual allegations against Fox for the $1.6 billion lawsuit to proceed.
“Fox possessed countervailing evidence of election fraud from the Department of Justice, election experts, and Dominion at the time it had been making its statements,” the judge wrote. “The fact that, despite this evidence, Fox continued to publish its allegations against Dominion, suggests Fox knew the allegations were probably false.”
Denver-based Dominion, which provided voting technology in more than two dozen states, has long alleged that Fox and other conservative news outlets trashed its reputation by falsely placing the company at the center of a vast conspiracy to flip votes away from former President Donald Trump. Trump’s false claims of vote rigging ultimately helped trigger the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters.
Davis noted that Fox continued to give air to the conspiracy without challenging it with known details debunking the lies.
“When Fox guests spread or reiterated disinformation about Dominion, Fox did not use the information Dominion provided to correct its guests or to reorient its viewers,” Davis wrote. “Instead, Fox and its personnel pressed their view that considerable evidence connected Dominion to an illegal election fraud conspiracy.”
Fox News maintains the lawsuit is baseless and an assault on the First Amendment.
“Fox News, along with every single news organization across the country, vigorously covered the breaking news surrounding the unprecedented 2020 election, providing full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear-cut analysis,” the network said in a statement.
Dominion spokeswoman Claire Bischoff said the company is pleased to see the process moving forward to “hold Fox accountable.”
For now, the judge rejected Fox’s argument that it’s top on-air personalities who broadcast the false claims by Trump’s supporters were just reporting the news with a little flair.
“Although Fox classifies its reporters’ remarks as ‘commentary’ that used ‘loose and hyperbolic rhetoric’ for entertainment value, even loose and hyperbolic language can be actionable if it rests on false statements of fact undisclosed to viewers,” the judge said.
Defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion against former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell and Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani also survived motions to dismiss in federal court in Washington.
The suit in Delaware also names current and former Fox personalities Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, as well as Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs, accusing them of allowing Giuliani and Powell to repeatedly spread lies on air even after being made aware that swing states like Arizona and Georgia had confirmed the accuracy of their votes.
“Despite Arizona and Georgia’s audits confirming the Dominion machines’ accuracy, Mr. Dobbs and Mr. Hannity again brought on Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell to assert their claims that Dominion rigged the election by changing votes in its machines,” the judge wrote.
Smartmatic Corp., another election technology company, has also sued Fox over its election coverage. It seeks $2.7 billion in damages and in addition to the network, names Bartiromo, Pirro and Dobbs as defendants.
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