The biggest names at Fox News are a pack of liars. It’s not new information, but there is new information to support that point, thanks to a filing in the defamation lawsuit against Fox News brought by Dominion Voting Systems. Winning a defamation lawsuit against a news network requires meeting an extremely high standard of proof, but this is about as strong a case as you can imagine: Dominion has pages of internal communications between top Fox News personalities and executives showing that they knew what they were doing. Dominion’s case is so strong, in fact, that the new filing is a motion for summary judgment on liability in its $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News. (A summary judgment on liability would not settle the question of damages.)
Summary judgment involves one party in civil litigation asking a judge to rule based on evidence and material facts that a trial is not needed. It’s almost always the defendant asking for summary judgment. Here, the plaintiff, Dominion, is asking for summary judgment on the basis of the evidence it has assembled—despite the usual difficulty of winning a defamation suit at all. That is what you call confidence in your filing. And the filing backs it up with page after page of quotes from the likes of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Rupert Murdoch, and Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, showing that they knew the score. Maybe there were some true believers left at Fox, but they were not the majority. Fox News pushed lies about Dominion for its own cynical reasons.
“This filing argues a fire hose of direct evidence of knowing falsity,” RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, told The New York Times. “It gives a powerful preview of one of the best-supported claims of actual malice we have seen in any major-media case.” (Actual malice is one of the legal standards such a suit has to meet.)
“Sidney Powell is lying.” Tucker Carlson to his producer Alex Pfeiffer, November 16, 2020 (Ex.150)
“Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry but she is.” Laura Ingraham to Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, November 15, 2020 ( Ex.155 at FNN035_03890539)
“Really crazy stuff.” Rupert Murdoch, November 19, 2020 (Ex.156)
They knew it was nonsense, but they were worried about losing their voters to Newsmax and OAN. Trump supporters were already angry with Fox for calling Arizona for Joe Biden on Election Night, and Newsmax and OAN were all in on election lies. Not alienating the Trump base meant Fox News had to offer those viewers at least some of what they wanted.
On Jan. 5, 2021, Murdoch wrote to Scott, “It's been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like the election is over and Joe Biden won.” That would be helpful, Murdoch said, because “such a statement would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen.” Forwarding the email, Scott noted, “I told Rupert that privately they are all there we need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers but they know how to navigate.”
That didn’t stop Fox News from continuing to push election lies, and—relevant to the Dominion lawsuit—lies specifically about Dominion having stolen votes, even as Dominion repeatedly reached out to the network with facts, calling on it to stop spreading lies.
As Murdoch said to Scott following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, “All very well for Sean [Hannity] to tell you he was in despair about Trump but what did he tell his viewers?” That’s a question for all of Fox News to answer.
The Dominion filing, which is excellent reading material, offers a long list of examples of the same Fox News personalities and executives who pushed election lies showing that they knew at least some of what the network was airing was false.
On Nov. 18, 2020, Tucker Carlson told Laura Ingraham, “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane.”
“Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy,” Ingraham responded.
“It’s unbelievably offensive to me. Our viewers are good people and they believe it,” Carlson responded. But Powell and Giuliani continued to make appearances on Fox News for weeks thereafter.
For instance, according to the filing:
[Lou] Dobbs had Powell on his show yet again on November 30 , again publishing the fraud and algorithm lies. ...
Two days prior to this, on November 27, Fawcett had again texted Dobbs asking if Dobbs had read Powell's lawsuit (Dobbs confirmed he had) and stating those suits were "complete bs "
The day after Powell’s “Kraken” lawsuits were dismissed, Dobbs had her on as a guest again.
When Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich accurately fact-checked a Trump tweet about the election having been stolen, Carlson went ballistic, telling Hannity in a group text, “Please get her fired. Seriously ... What the fuck ? I’m actually shocked. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It's measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”
Carlson’s reference to the stock price was not a side note—he was concerned about the network losing viewership to Newsmax and OAN.
Suzanne Scott, CEO of Fox News Media, got involved in policing the Heinrich tweet, telling other executives, “Sean texted me he's standing down on responding but not happy about this and doesn't understand how this is allowed to happen from anyone in news. She [Heinrich] has serious nerve doing this and if this gets picked up, viewers are going to be further disgusted.”
Heinrich deleted her fact-check tweet—even though it was accurate.
Carlson’s concern about stock prices may also have come out when, on Jan. 26, he had Pillow Man Mike Lindell on his show to spread lies about Dominion. Lindell, after all, may have been making claims that Carlson and his producer had privately made clear they knew were false, but he was a top advertiser.
The standard for summary judgment, cited also by the Dominion filing, is that a court should grant summary judgment if the party seeking it can “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In layman's terms, Dominion is saying that there are no meaningful facts in dispute, meaning there's no need for a trial, and that the law requires the judge to find that Fox News did indeed defame the company.
Fox may try to claim there is genuine dispute as to material fact, but with this level of evidence—from internal communications at the time the claims about Dominion were being regularly aired on Fox News and Fox News Business—they’re going to have to get creative.
Dominion’s lawyers write in the filing, “The movant bears the initial burden of showing that undisputed material facts support its motion, but once that burden is met, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must show material issues of fact exist and who ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading’ but instead ‘must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Your move, Fox News. And the response filing, too, may be very entertaining, albeit in a different way.
It’s amazing that Fox News let this lawsuit get to this point, with so much damaging material being publicly aired and brought as evidence in court. And yet Tucker Carlson is still, to this day, encouraging viewers to question the results of the 2020 election: