Deposition testimony from Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch showcases that he and other company executives knew that the election fraud claims that aired on Fox News following the 2020 presidential election were false.
In spite of that knowledge, Fox News hosts continued to platform guests who perpetuated the lie that Trump had only lost to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election due to widespread voter fraud.
Details of Murdoch’s deposition — part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems against Murdoch, Fox News and some of the network’s current and former hosts — were made public on Monday. In his statements, Murdoch repeatedly alleged that what airs on the network is up to the hosts rather than the executives, likely in an attempt to shift blame away from the Fox Corporation and himself.
Murdoch admitted that “some of our commentators were endorsing” false election fraud claims that were being pushed by then-President Donald Trump and his allies. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight,” he said.
But his network as a whole — and the parent company specifically — shouldn’t be held liable, Murdoch’s lawyers have argued in filings responding to the lawsuit.
“Far from reporting the allegations as true, hosts informed their audiences at every turn that the allegations were just allegations that would need to be proven in court in short order if they were going to impact the outcome of the election,” that filing claimed. “And to the extent some hosts commented on the allegations, that commentary is independently protected opinion.”
Many legal experts who specialize in press freedom disagree with that assessment, however.
“There appears to be a pretty good argument that Fox endorsed the accuracy of what was being said,” Lee Levine, a First Amendment lawyer, told The New York Times. “I’d much rather be in Dominion’s shoes than Fox’s right now.”
Murdoch’s attempt to shift the blame also contradicts internal messaging from Fox News personalities and executives from the network and parent company. In an internal company email thread, Murdoch described claims that were made on the air by former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as being “really crazy stuff” and “damaging” to the network — yet Fox News continued to air election fraud lies with little pushback from hosts.
Fox News hosts regularly aired segments that wrongly suggested that Dominion Voting Systems software could run algorithms that could change ballot preferences submitted by voters. The network also aired commentary that wrongly asserted that Dominion was founded in Venezuela and had ties to the country’s late president, Hugo Chávez.
While executives acknowledged that these and other stories about election fraud were false, on-air personalities and their guests continued to suggest that the claims should be taken seriously.
Several observers have noted that the filings showcase that Fox News is committed to promoting a right-wing agenda over factual reporting.
“This filing is full of evidence that Fox is an outright propaganda outfit. … It exists to profit by distorting news to keep its conservative audience inflamed,” said David Corn, D.C. bureau chief for Mother Jones.
“It was obvious before, but the discovery in the Dominion lawsuit made it indisputable that Fox News is not in the journalism business, has no code of ethics, and intentionally pushes disinformation,” trial lawyer and frequent Trump critic Max Kennerly said on Twitter.
“The White House should immediately revoke Fox ‘News’ of its access to the press briefing room,” said Democratic strategist Victor Shi. “They aren’t news. They are a stain on journalism & until the network starts caring about facts more than Trump, they shouldn’t be allowed back.”
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