Squinting in the late afternoon sun on a square in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, attorney Justin Nelson told the world’s media on Tuesday that the election follows former President Donald Trump’s nearly 30-month defeat. He said there would eventually be “proof and accountability” for the lies spread about the fraud.
at the last minute $787.5 million settlement A Texas-based litigator accused of broadcasting false claims about his client, voting machine maker Dominion, said the lawsuit from Fox was “strong support for truth and democracy.” It was a moment to consider the role conservatives played in spreading conspiracy theories, he seemed to suggest.
Just a short time ago, the outcome of Dominion’s legal battle was murky amid a recent six-week trial delay. was supposed to start on monday Delaware is a lucrative legal residence for large American corporations.
The 12 jurors, carefully selected from a pool of hundreds, were unable to return after lunch to a courtroom full of journalists eager for Dominion’s opening statements. After a long wait, the judges finally appeared. The parties have “settled their lawsuits,” he said. Trials were off.
agreed fox Throwing in the towel at the last minute and agreeing to one of the biggest defamation rulings in U.S. history wasn’t immediately clear. even if it appears that you agree to do so.
A theory that Fox realized the game was over when a juror, whose demographic resembled that of a heavily Democratic neighborhood with a train station named after Joe Biden, was finally seated for the day. Some people put up
Other analysts said back a few days ago that Judge Eric Davis, who was overseeing the case, warned that Fox’s attorneys had “credibility issues” after the court disclosure controversy. .
For Katherine Ross law professor at George Washington University, Davis departed from her usual dry prose and wrote a written opinion thatcrystal clearA statement made by Fox about alleged tampering with Dominion voting machines was false. The U.S. Constitution’s protection of free speech does not extend to lying, he added.
The judge “basically watered down all of Fox’s defense . . . They were left with very little,” Ross said. “Fox has really stepped into the fire.”
Still others pointed to piles of internal Fox emails and texts Dominion unearthed in pretrial discovery. Among them was host Tucker Carlson, a former vocal Trump supporter, who confessed to hating the former president “passionately.” In another excerpt, a Fox News employee said he didn’t believe the election was stolen, but feared viewers would leave en masse for his right-wing competitor if he said so on air. admitted.
The fact that 92-year-old Rupert Murdoch was forced to testify directly about his role in the months-long case at Dominion’s request provides more impetus to final gasp settlement talks might have done
But despite the high hurdles of a U.S. defamation lawsuit, Fox’s fate was sealed from the moment Dominion sued him in 2021, said the 40-year career representative of the large media group. said Lee Levine, a First Amendment attorney who
The 443-page complaint was “the strongest defamation lawsuit by a plaintiff against a media company that I have ever seen,” Levine said. One reason for this is that Dominion has issued real-time warnings to Fox casters and executives about false allegations over the past several weeks. After the election.
At the time of the November 2020 ballot, Dominion was a small, relatively unknown Denver-based company with no dedicated spokesperson. But as Trump’s allies began speculating about the company on air and hired an expensive external communications team led by Tony Flatt, who was the White House deputy press secretary under George W. Bush, it got off the ground. it was done.
After realizing Fox was “refusing to go see” the evidence, the team sent more than 3,600 emails and texts to Fox staff, said a person familiar with the strategy. be clearly false.
“We knew we were making records,” the person said. “It will be a playbook for what people will do in the future.”
Dominion’s private equity investors were also veteran operators. Hootan Yaghoobzadeh, co-founder of Staple Street, is an alumnus of Cerberus Capital, known as one of Wall Street’s fiercest firms. He and Staple He Street’s other founder, Stephen Owens, worked for Carlisle, one of his groups of the world’s largest buyouts.
Many of Fox and Murdoch’s most vocal detractors urged the Dominion to bring the case to justice and “finish” Fox. Some expected the damages to be so high that the company would be in financial trouble.
The settlement is large, but it’s not an existential threat to Fox. In Fox Corp’s full-year earnings last year, the cable network programming division, where Fox News is located, reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $2.93 billion. The company as a whole reported net income of $1.23 billion.
It’s also not the biggest damage suffered by Murdoch’s media empire, with the UK Press Gazette saying the phone hacking scandal at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid has cost more than £1 billion in economic losses. increase.
In a statement issued after the settlement, Fox said it acknowledged “the court’s ruling that determined certain allegations about Dominion to be false” but did not extend to a full apology.
“We hope that our decision to amicably resolve this dispute with the Dominion will allow the country to move forward from these issues, rather than the pain of a divisive trial,” it added. rice field.
But it’s still not clear. One shareholder filed a lawsuit in Chancery, Delaware, alleging that the company’s board members failed to prevent the damaging allegations from airing.
It also faces a defamation allegation from another voting machine maker, Smartmatic, which has also been targeted by conservative hosts on the network.
The Dominion has separated former Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, as well as radical news outlets Newsmax and One America News Network, although a settlement of this magnitude is unlikely to be seen again. are complaining.
Davida Brook, a key member of Dominion’s winning legal team, told the assembled press.
Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Antoine Gara from New York
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