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The End of Fox News?

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. By Gage Skidmore.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Fox News In Expensive Legal Morass – What would Conservatives do without Fox News Channel?

The right-wing juggernaut dominates cable ratings across numerous different shows and timeslots. Fox News’ ratings prowess has never been in question but now it faces what might be an existential problem.

Fox is being sued in two major defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic USA for casting false assertions after the 2020 presidential election. Fox had reported that both companies engaged in voting fraud that tipped the scales in Joe Biden’s favor.

How much damage could those lawsuits actually do? 

Multibillion-Dollar Lawsuits for Fox News

Dominion Voting Systems has sued Fox News for $1.6 billion for defamation damages while Smartmatic USA is going for $2.7 billion – also for defamation.

Fox News has said it was only informing voters and engaging in its First Amendment rights.

Voting Machines Tipped in Favor of Joe Biden

The voting companies have maintained that the news organization and multiple hosts and anchors followed former President Donald Trump’s allegation that the election was stolen and that Fox News knew better but continued to bring guests on the air who made untrue allegations against Dominion and Smartmatic.

Their voting machines allegedly helped “steal” the election from Trump and enabled Joe Biden to win.

Dominion Voting Systems Filed a Summary Judgement Motion Against Fox

Dominion believes it has sufficient evidence to show that Fox News and Fox Business News on-air talent knew that they were bringing on guests such as Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani who were spreading lies.

The company filed a 178-page motion for summary judgment claiming that it should be awarded damages and win in court before trial. The motion was made public on February 16.

Fox News Claims Protection Via the First Amendment

Fox News lawyers are fighting back and claiming that the Dominion lawsuit “assails the First Amendment and the news media’s duty and right to report on matters of significant public interest without fear of liability.”

Fox News Is Illegitimate, Plaintiffs Charge

Dominion’s brief said that Fox was not acting as a legitimate news company. Smartmatic, on the other hand, said its software was only used in Los Angeles County in California so it would have been impossible for it to tip an election in Trump’s favor.

Strange Fraud Memo Is All the Evidence Powell Had

Donald Trump attorney Powell is at the center of the cases. Powell pushed a false narrative based on a memo called “Election Fraud Info.” She appeared on Fox numerous times pushing her story that the election was stolen because of voting irregularities from the machines and software.

The election fraud memo that Powell sent to Fox made wild accusations that were not based in reality, plaintiffs said. The author’s name was not included in the brief, but she said in her memo that sometimes the “wind talks to her.” The memo also detailed falsehoods about the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former Fox News executive Roger Ailes.

Maria Bartiromo Was Smitten With Memo and Powell

Powell sent the memo to Fox News and Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo who quickly put Powell on the air to spread conspiracy theories about Dominion and Smartmatic voting technology.

Dominion said it tried to contact Bartiromo and other Fox personalities to tell its side of the story but these efforts were rebuffed by the network.

Key Fox Hosts Do Not Believe Powell

Moreover, other Fox News hosts doubted the authenticity and the character of Sidney Powell behind the scenes.

“Sidney Powell is a bit nuts,” Fox host Laura Ingraham messaged to Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity after the election. “Sidney Powell is lying,” Carlson told his producer the next day.

Plaintiffs Are Convinced Fox Was Culpable

Dominion believes that this shows Fox News knowingly put out information they knew to be untrue. Plus, the Powell accusations created a situation that utterly damaged the reputation of the voting company.

Powell had said to Bartiromo “That is where the fraud took place, where they were flipping votes in the computer system or adding votes that did not exist.”

Tucker Carlson Said Voting Accusations Were Absurd

Carlson texted a co-worker that this was “absurd.” Top Fox News anchor Bret Baier also doubted Bartiromo and said she was pushing falsehoods on social media.

NPR reported February 20 that “Republican and Democratic state and local officials disputed and disproved [Powell’s] claims. So did Trump administration election integrity officials – as did some Fox News journalists.”

They Need a Foxy Defense

Fox will have to show the court that it meant no malice against Dominion or Smartmatic and that it was only reporting a side to the story that its viewers were concerned about. But its own hosts and anchors had qualms about the authenticity of Powell. In retrospect, they would probably not have put Powell on the air knowing that her claims were based on a questionable memo and no real evidence.

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Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.