Fox News hosts, Rupert Murdoch were skeptical of Trump election fraud claims

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A person walks past Fox News Headquarters at the News Corporation building on May 03, 2022 in New York City.
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Rupert Murdoch and Fox News hosts expressed disbelief in former President Donald Trump’s false election fraud claims, according to evidence released from Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox Corp and its cable-TV networks.  

In court papers filed Thursday, text messages and testimony from depositions show that Fox executives and TV personalities were skeptical about claims that the election between the victorious Joe Biden, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican, was rigged. 

The release follows months of discovery and depositions that have remained private until Thursday, when the companies filed court papers before a Delaware judge laying out each of their cases and unveiling recently gathered evidence. The documents were revealed hours after authorities in Georgia released a small portion of a grand jury report regarding a separate criminal probe into Trump’s alleged election meddling in that state.

Dominion brought the defamation lawsuit against Fox and its right wing cable networks, Fox News and Fox Business, arguing the networks and its anchors made false claims that its voting machines rigged the results of the 2020 election. 

“Really crazy stuff. And damaging,” Fox Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in an email on Nov. 19, days after the election, regarding claims Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani was making on Fox News. 

Top Fox News anchors like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham expressed disbelief in what Sydney Powell, a pro-Trump attorney who had aggressively promoted claims of election fraud, had said at the time, too. 

“Sydney Powell is lying,” Tucker Carlson said in a text message to his producer. Meanwhile Laura Ingraham said in a message to Carlson: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.”

“It’s unbelievably offensive to me. Our viewers are good people and they believe it,” Carlson responded, according to court papers. These messages came in the weeks following the election. 

Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell, attorneys for President Donald Trump, conduct a news conference at the Republican National Committee on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Dominion said in court papers that Fox admitted that Hannity and Lou Dobbs’ shows did not “challenge the narrative” that Dominion was responsible for rigging the election or producing inaccurate results. 

On Thursday, both Fox Corp and Fox News also filed their own motions for summary judgment. Fox Corp, which saw its push to have the case dismissed denied by the court, said in court papers that following a year of discovery, the record in the case shows it had “no role in the creation and publication of the challenged statements – all of which aired on either Fox Business Network or Fox News Channel.” 

In recent months Murdoch, as well as his son Lachlan Murdoch, the Fox Corp CEO, faced depositions as part of the lawsuit. 

Fox News said once again in court papers that it “fulfilled its commitment to inform fully and comment fairly,” on the claims that Dominion rigged the election against Trump. 

“There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan,” Fox said in a statement issued Thursday. 

A Dominion spokesperson didn’t comment and its private-equity owner, Staple Street Capital, didn’t respond to comment. 

“Here, however, overwhelming direct evidence establishes Fox’s knowledge of falsity, not just ‘doubts,'” Dominion said in court papers Thursday, pointing to multiple defamatory statements. 

Dominion pointed to the audience backlash Fox News faced on the 2020 election night when it called Arizona for Joe Biden, later seeing competing right wing networks like Newsmax take advantage of the opening with the audience. 

Dominion’s findings point to hosts including Carlson, Ingraham and Sean Hannity understanding “the threat to them personally.” Dominion points to messages Carlson sent to his producer on Nov. 5, “We worked really hard to build what we have. Those f—-ers are destroying our credibility. It enrages me.” 

The case is being watched closely by First Amendment watchdogs and experts. Libel lawsuits are typically centered around one falsehood. In this case Dominion cites a lengthy list of examples of Fox TV hosts making false claims even after they were proven to be untrue. Media companies are often broadly protected by the First Amendment. 

These cases are typically settled out of court or dismissed quickly. But the Delaware judge overseeing the case has so far dismissed such requests. The trial is slated to begin in mid-April. 

Last week, during a status conference, Dominion’s attorney called out concerns that some evidence, such as board meeting minutes and the results of searches of personal drives, had yet to be produced by Fox and its TV networks. 

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