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Fox News, Dominion Agree to $787.5 Million Settlement Over Election Lies

“Fox gets to duck full responsibility and avoid a head-on reckoning with its viewers,” one media law expert noted.

A mobile billboard deployed by Media Matters circles Fox News Corp headquarters on April 17, 2023, in New York City.

A judge overseeing a defamation trial against Fox News announced on Tuesday that the trial would not be going forward, as the network and the company suing them, Dominion Voting Systems, had reached a settlement agreement.

Dominion had alleged that the cable news network had spread false and damaging claims about the company in the months after the 2020 presidential election, pointing to statements by program guests who wrongly asserted that Dominion voting machines used in the election switched votes from former President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden. Fox News hosts repeatedly allowed these false claims to go unchallenged, the company said.

Dominion had requested $1.6 billion in the lawsuit. On Tuesday, the company announced that it had agreed to a sum of $787.5 million from the network.

The settlement will allow Fox News to avoid a jury trial in which several of its personalities would have likely had to testify about the disinformation that was propagated by the network. Dominion had planned to call Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp (Fox’s parent company) to the stand, as well as his son Lachlan Murdoch. They had also planned to have Fox News personalities Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity testify, both of whom knowingly spread lies about the 2020 election.

“We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” Fox News said in a statement about the settlement.

Dominion officials asserted that the settlement was an acknowledgment of wrongdoing by Fox News.

Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company, our employees, and the customers that we serve. … The evidence brought to light through this case underscores the consequences of spreading lies,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said.

Notably, the settlement doesn’t appear to require Fox News to acknowledge its wrongdoing to viewers directly. Many legal experts on social media had hoped for any settlement to require such an action, and Dominion reportedly had been pursuing it as a stipulation of any agreement.

“There’s no doubt that the $787.5 million settlement is an emphatic win for Dominion. I can’t help but think, though, about the significance to Fox of not having to acknowledge, on air, that the network spread falsehoods,” Jonathan Peters, a media law professor at the University of Georgia, said on Twitter.

Fox gets to duck *full* responsibility and avoid a head-on reckoning with its viewers. And, instead, we get a mealy-mouthed written statement” from the network, Peters went on, adding that a “clear on-air acknowledgment would have served the public interest and public record.”

“It’s hard to see how this result — without real public accountability — changes Fox’s behavior,” ProPublica’s Andy Kroll wrote on Twitter. “Without an on-air retraction, correction, or apology, some Fox viewers probably don’t know the settlement happened!”

There is still the possibility that the network will be required to make such a statement in a separate lawsuit, however. Smartmatic, another voting machine company that Fox News guests wrongly claimed had engaged in voter fraud, is currently suing the network for $2.7 billion.

A lawyer for the company indicated that the lawsuit would bring to light additional information about lies that were spread on the network. “Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign. Smartmatic will expose the rest,” Smartmatic lawyer Erik Connolly said.

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