In the cult sci-fi series “Star Trek,” the Dominion is a galactic superpower. In North America, Canadian company Dominion Voting Systems (TVS) manufactures voting machines and their software. For them, media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s legal battle with media powerhouse Fox Corp and its affiliate Fox News began on Tuesday — and ended faster than expected. Dominion Conservative sued the US broadcaster in March 2021 for damages equivalent to around 1.2 billion euros. Before the actual trial came, however, there was a deal: Fox would pay $787.5 million.
Has a nasty aftertaste. Fox News has been accused of spreading false claims by former US President Donald Trump that TMS machines were used to “rigg” the 2020 presidential election. This, despite the fact that the broadcaster knew perfectly well that the allegations were baseless.
Dominion cited sources saying some Fox hosts and producers felt internally that guests who made false statements, including former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, could not substantiate their claims. However, according to Dominion, the reports were still aired to avoid further losing viewers to right-wing extremist stations. According to figures cited in Dominion’s lawsuit, Fox News’ ratings plummeted following election night.
“Tell the truth, Rupert.”
Fox News saw the case as an attack on press freedom, citing the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which protects freedom of expression. The discredited media outlet was a Trump campaign center, saying it reported on Trump’s statements and did not endorse them.
The former president, who lost to Joe Biden in 2020, talked about, among other things, “the biggest election fraud ever.” On his social network “Truth Social”, he recently asked the broadcaster to admit this in order to gain the upper hand in the defamation process: “Rubert, tell the truth and everything will be fine,” he told the Fox owner.
However, according to a court document made public in late February, he admitted under oath after the presidential election that prominent Fox News moderators had actually “supported” false allegations of election fraud. He wanted to take the witness stand with other executives, including 92-year-old CEO Suzanne Scott. Many conservative commentators, such as Tucker Carlson, played down the March attack on the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., and should have been subpoenaed as witnesses by a Delaware court. According to Tucker’s story, the last presidential election was “a colossal betrayal of American democracy.”
The start of the court hearing, originally scheduled for Monday, was postponed by a day by Presiding Judge Eric Davis. No official reasons have been announced, but several media outlets, including Reuters and the Washington Post, have reported that Fox News tried to settle out of court. As the “New York Times” writes, such an agreement would have been beneficial to both parties. For Fox News, for example, to avoid further damage to its reputation and financial standing. For Dominion, on the other hand, to avoid years of litigation. However, according to Reuters on Tuesday, an out-of-court settlement is unlikely given the bitter two-year dispute.
A new problem arises
The process between the second-largest U.S. provider of voting technology and one of the world’s largest media companies could have taken up to six weeks. But even though this cause is now over, it shouldn’t be Fox News’ only concern. Another voting machine company, Smartmatic, is suing for defamation and seeking about $2.5 billion in damages in a court in New York. According to Reuters, Fox Corp shareholders may take legal action against the company’s management.(jm/reu/apa)
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