Fox’s Sizzling Bazookas

Dominion Voting Systems’s filings for its motion for summary judgment included incredible smoking gun evidence that Fox News and its parent, Fox Corporation, knowingly published false statements with wild allegations about Dominion’s supposed role in promoting voter fraud in the 2020 election.

The court’s ruling on the motion last week was much more damning than Dominion’s filings – more like a sizzling bazooka gun.  For one thing, the document was a ruling by a neutral judge, not a partisan argument.

The ruling squarely supports Dominion’s argument, stating, “The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.”  (Emphasis in original.)  As a result, the court granted Dominion’s motion for summary judgment on the falsity element of the defamation cause of action.

The ruling includes evidence I hadn’t seen in the prior filings.  In particular, it shows that from the get-go, Fox’s own fact-checking team reported internally that the statements were false.

[Fox News Network] has a centralized research department called the “Brainroom” that conducts internal fact-checking.  On November 13, 2020, the Brainroom completed a fact-check regarding the Dominion allegations, which stated:

    • There was “no evidence of widespread fraud.”
    • “Claims about Dominion switching or deleting votes are 100% false” and claims that votes for Former President Trump were deleted are “mathematically impossible.”
    • “Dominion has no company ownership relationships with any member of the Pelosi family, the Feinstein family, or the Clinton Global Initiative.”
    • “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has debunked viral claims about the existence of a secret CIA program for vote fraud called Hammer and Scorecard.”
    • “No credible reports or evidence of any software issues exist.”
    • “Claims about software updates being done the night before Election Day are 100% false.”
    • “There are no issues with the use of Sharpie pens related to hand-marked paper ballots.”
    • “All U.S. voting systems must provide assurance that they work accurately and reliably as intended under federal U.S. Election Assistance Commission and state certification and testing requirements.” (Footnotes omitted.)

Less than one week after it was recognized that Mr. Biden won the election, Fox “News” knew that he won.  But as late as January 5, Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch was still considering whether Fox should acknowledge this fact.  So even on the eve of the insurrection, Fox could not bring itself to acknowledge the fact that Mr. Biden legitimately won the election.

The court found that Fox’s statements about Dominion constitute defamation per se, and ruled that Fox is not entitled to use defenses like the neutral report and fair report privileges or the privilege for opinion.

The court did not grant summary judgment on the issue of actual malice or damages.  The trial, which is set for April 17, will focus on these issues.  Although the court didn’t rule on actual malice, its opinion sure included a lot of evidence supporting that conclusion.

Understandably, there is a lot of attention on the reported indictment in Manhattan of former President Trump.  Any trial in that case would take place months, perhaps years, in the future.

In the meantime, there may be a high-profile trial with lots of evidence that Mr. Trump did lose the election and that Fox executives and personalities knowingly published false information to protect its financial and political interests.

Will Fox decide it’s worth paying off this claim to avoid the embarrassment of a prolonged trial and the serious risk of getting a huge verdict against them at trial.  Would Dominion be willing to accept any offer from Fox?

If not, this would be one heck of a trial with a parade of Fox bigwigs marching to the witness stand.

Stay tuned.

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