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Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Fox News-Dominion Lawsuit Settlement: What to Know - The New York Times

What to Know About the $787.5 Million Fox News-Dominion Settlement

"The 11th-hour deal saved Fox a potentially lengthy legal tangle, though it still faces other lawsuits over its coverage of false claims about the 2020 election.

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“Lies have consequences,” a lawyer for Dominion Voting Systems said during a news conference.Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Fox News’s agreement with Dominion Voting Systems on Tuesday abruptly resolved a lawsuit over how the network amplified conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, which devastated Dominion’s reputation and business.

The network had advanced former President Donald J. Trump’s claims, which its own hosts did not believe, that Dominion’s voting machines had been used to tilt the election against Mr. Trump. The trial was set to begin on Tuesday, and gasps were heard in the courtroom when the judge announced the settlement.

Here are the key facts about the deal that ended the case.

What were the terms of the settlement?

At $787.5 million, the amount that Fox News agreed to pay Dominion was one of the largest in a defamation case. Fox was not required to apologize on the air, though it did make a statement recognizing that the court had found “certain claims about Dominion” aired on its programming “to be false.”

The settlement carried an implicit plea of “no contest” to several pretrial findings from Judge Eric M. Davis, who presided over the case. He had written in one ruling that it was “CRYSTAL clear” that Fox’s statements regarding Dominion and the election were untrue.

Other details about the terms of the settlement remain unknown. Judge Davis did not say anything about them in court. It’s unclear whether the settlement will be publicly disclosed.

Why did Fox settle?

The settlement prevented what could have been a costlier, lengthier and more embarrassing outcome for Fox.

Dominion’s suit asked for damages of $1.6 billion, almost double the settlement figure. The trial could have gone on for weeks, followed by years of appeals.

The case could also have put a spotlight on a stream of damaging information showing how Fox told its audience a story about interference in the 2020 election that many of its own executives and hosts did not believe.

Lawyers for Fox News leaving the courthouse in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday. Fox still faces other lawsuits over its coverage of the 2020 election.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Without the settlement, Fox’s biggest stars and top managers faced the prospect of testifying in a public courtroom and answering direct questions about whether they believed the election fraud claims. Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old Fox News founder, and the hosts Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo and Sean Hannity were potential witnesses.

“We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues,” the Fox Corporation said in a statement.

What happens to other lawsuits against Fox?

While Fox resolved its dispute with Dominion, the network remains entangled in similar lawsuits related to its coverage of the 2020 election.

Months before Dominion filed its defamation claim, Smartmatic, another voting machine company, filed its own, demanding $2.7 billion in damages. Fox denied wrongdoing, saying it had simply reported on newsworthy allegations coming from Mr. Trump.

A day after the Smartmatic suit was filed, Fox Business canceled the show of Lou Dobbs, who was named as a defendant. A New York appeals court denied Fox’s request to dismiss the case in February. A New York judge last month agreed the case could proceed.

In March, Abby Grossberg, a Fox News producer who had worked with Ms. Bartiromo and Mr. Carlson, filed two lawsuits, in Delaware and in New York. She accused Fox of coercing her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion case and of creating a hostile, discriminatory work environment.

After she filed the complaints, Fox fired Ms. Grossberg. “We will continue to vigorously defend Fox against Ms. Grossberg’s unmeritorious legal claims, which are riddled with false allegations against Fox and our employees,” a Fox News spokeswoman said.

What does this mean for Fox?

The settlement dealt a significant financial blow to Mr. Murdoch’s news channel. A recent corporate filing showed that Fox Corporation had about $4.1 billion in cash and “cash equivalents” at the end of last year. The pending cases could also prove costly for Fox.

It remains unclear whether the settlement will cause Fox News to change how it handles the coverage of conspiracy theories like the ones involving Dominion. On Tuesday, while the blockbuster settlement topped the news on other television networks, it was covered only three times by Fox in the first four hours or so after the settlement became public, amounting to about six minutes of coverage."

Fox News-Dominion Lawsuit Settlement: What to Know - The New York Times

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