Fox & (not so many) Friends: News corporation settles Dominion lawsuit for a record sum
Cait Evans – 2nd May 2023
Dubbed by many as the ‘media trial of the century’, the hotly awaited showdown between Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp and Dominion Voting Systems was all systems go, with both Murdoch and Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson both set to take the stand. But in a last-minute twist, the judge revealed both parties had agreed to settle for a reported $787.5 million - one of the largest known defamation settlements in US history.
Dominion Voting Systems brought the lawsuit against Fox where it claimed that Fox had ‘knowingly amplified lies about its voting machines during the 2020 presidential election’. Specifically, Fox asserted Dominion had rigged the vote against then President Donald Trump. Except the trial in question was not about whether the claims were false, as this was settled in a pre-trial ruling in the Delaware Superior Court. The main event involved Dominion’s counsel proving to a jury that Fox had acted with ‘actual malice’ when it broadcasted the false claims. In order to prove this, there was much probing beneath the surface of simply what the channel was broadcasting at the time, and the evidence gathered by lawyers looked deeper into internal documents and communications, evidence that has since been made public.
It all started when Fox brought on Sidney Powell, Trump’s lawyer, where she made claims that Dominion had rigged votes in favour of Biden. Interestingly, texts reveal that at the time key Fox anchors raised suspicions against such a theory. In fact, documents reveal Fox got a fact checking team on it, who also argued that there was no truth to the claim.
It is very rare to see a defamation lawsuit get so close to trial. They are notoriously difficult to prove, and settlement is extremely common. This is much the same in the UK, where under S1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013, a claimant must prove the publication of that statement caused them, or is likely to cause them, ‘serious harm’ in order to be classed as defamation. Substantial loss won’t cut it! However, it's unlikely Murdoch’s conglomerate will be breathing a sigh of relief any time soon, as Smartmatic, an election tech company, is also suing the channel for almost twice the amount of Dominion’s initial claim, along with at least 2 other defamation suits awaiting the corporation alongside this.