Opinion | Judge rejects Fox Corp.’s attempt to throw Dominion case

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The most famous hosts on Fox News have long boasted that Rupert Murdoch, the company’s patriarch, supports their comments, or at least their right to blow it over his ether. “I’m 100 percent his bitch,” Tucker Carlson said in a radio appearance in 2010. “No matter what Mr. Murdoch says, I do.”

This dynamic – the role of Fox Corporation’s chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, Fox Corporation’s CEO Lachlan Murdoch, in the programming of Fox News – is at the heart of a closely monitored lawsuit in Delaware. In 2021, Dominion Voting Systems filed a lawsuit against Fox News, several of its anchors and pro-Trump guests, and a further lawsuit against the company’s parent company, Fox Corp., and Fox Broadcasting. Both actions stemmed from allegations in the network that Dominion had participated in a nationwide election fraud scheme that deprived then-President Donald Trump of the victory in the 2020 presidential election. These allegations were unfounded.

Delaware Judge Eric M. Davis on Tuesday rejected Fox Corp.’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Dominion “had sufficiently relied on proximate causation based on its ‘factual allegations of misconduct attributable to the parent company’ – ie. “Fox Corporation.” The ruling follows a similar court defeat for the conglomerate: In December, Davis dismissed a motion for dismissal in Dominion’s case against Fox News, and in March, a New York judge did the same in a defamation suit against Fox News, Fox Corp. and others by voting. company Smartmatic.

This development turns up the heat on Fox News and its parent company for what stands out as the most irresponsible and destructive form of coverage of a network specializing in such material. And Tuesday’s decision by Davis is particularly important because it strengthens a procedure that focuses on Fox Corp. management – the people who are ready to stop it all.

Rarely has the libel law been invoked for more just purposes.

In its initial complaint in the Fox Corp. case, Dominion’s attorneys diluted a lot of reports about Murdoch’s practical management of Fox News. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter quoted in the complaint, the current CEO of Fox News Media, Suzanne Scott, noted that Rupert Murdoch “methodically got completely entrenched in our daily operations” after the dismissal of the then Fox in 2016 News Manager Roger Ailes.

Another crisis emerged after the 2020 presidential election, according to the Dominion case. Fact-based coverage of Fox News’ Decision Desk – which named Arizona early after Democratic nominee Joe Biden, which sparked a MAGA reaction to the network – pushed core viewers toward other right-wing cable networks, including Newsmax and One America News (OAN), as the suit remarks. Fox News’ two-decade hike to the top of the cable news ratings seemed just a touch wobbly. Rupert Murdoch “re-engaged” in Fox News’ decision-making.

Although Murdoch allowed Fox News to repeat the “big lie” conspiracy theories about Dominion and Smartmatic, the Dominion complaint notes that the Murdoch-controlled New York Post took a different path. It wrote that Trump should stop his “stolen election” rhetoric and turn off the “baseless conspiracies.” The Wall Street Journal, another Murdoch-controlled property, had a similar message: “Mr. Trump’s legacy will be greatly diminished if his last act is a bitter refusal to accept a legitimate defeat,” the Journal wrote on November 7, 2020.

Dominion claims that these contradictions – stolen election claims on Fox News; refutations of these allegations in the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal – were evidence of Murdoch’s state of mind. “Given the concerns about rivals like Newsmax and OAN, it is not surprising that although Rupert Murdoch did not believe President Trump’s allegations of electoral fraud, he nonetheless urged personalities in the air to maintain those allegations,” the complaint reads.

In its motion for dismissal, Fox Corp. claimed that the voice technology company had failed to establish any “direct claims” against the defendant, including denials concerning a parent’s liability for the actions of a subsidiary. “No individual at Fox Corporation is alleged to be a defamatory speaker, nor a producer, researcher or editor of any of the contested statements in question,” the proposal reads.

That defense did not impress Davis, who explained why he allowed the Dominion suit to move forward:

Dominion claims that: (1) Rupert Murdoch “controls everything” within Fox News; (2) when Fox News ratings fell after the election, Rupert Murdoch stepped in “to strike shots directly;” (3) Rupert Murdoch “encouraged personalities in the air to perpetuate [] baseless allegations “about Dominion after he and Lachlan Murdoch made a” business calculation “for spreading lies; and (4) Fox Corporation” rewarded “those on Fox News who complied and” punished “those who did not.

What’s more, Davis Dominion’s arguments about the disagreements between Fox News and the Murdoch newspapers on the “big lie” were found to be sufficient to overcome Fox Corp.’s proposal to reject. The interruption, Davis writes, runs according to the “actual malice” standard required in some defamation cases. The allegations presented in the complaint, Davis writes, “support a reasonable conclusion that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew that Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least ruthlessly ignored the truth when they allegedly got Fox News to spread its allegations of Dominion. “

The ruling finds that Dominion has “relied on facts” sufficiently to raise a legal claim in Delaware; at this point, the case has not won. Also: Davis accepted a motion to dismiss Dominion’s claim against Fox Broadcasting, another part of the Fox conglomerate named as a defendant.

Fox declined to comment on the ruling.

Now comes a painful period for Fox Corp., which has to deal with requests for discovery from Dominion. (Fox Corp. argued in a lawsuit that the entire Dominion case against it represented Dominion’s “latest gambit in a series of discovery disputes” in its second case against Fox News.) This process could add meat and spice to the bare-bones images of Fox Corp. . editorial intervention cited in the Dominion complaint.

It’s past time for such an excavation: Rupert Murdoch has presided over the madness on Fox News. For too long, he has let employees – Fox News hosts and PR types – give the bizarre and sincere answers to network abuse.

He needs to be heard. And a deposit would be a nice framework for such an imperative.

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