Dominion Voting and Fox News reach ‘historic’ last-minute settlement

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and Dominion Voting have reached a last-minute settlement just as a major defamation trial was about to begin.

On the opening day of the hearing on Wednesday morning (AEDT), the judge announced the “parties have resolved their case”.

“You are free to go”, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis told assembled jurors in the Delaware courtroom.

Dominion CEO John Poulos told media it was a “historic settlement”, the BBC reports.

Mr Poulos said Fox was “admitting to telling lies, causing enormous damage to my company”.

“Fox now understands the consequence of spreading lies”, he said.

At issue was whether Fox was liable for airing the false claims that Dominion’s ballot-counting machines were used to manipulate the 2020 US election in favour of Joe Biden over then-president Donald Trump.

Dominion argued that these on-air claims caused the company “enormous and irreparable economic harm.”

The 12-person jury had been selected and the case was poised to kick off with opening statements on Wednesday morning (AEDT).
The settlement averts a trial that would have put one of the world’s top media companies in the crosshairs over its coverage of vote-rigging claims in the 2020 US election.

Fox’s best-known figures would have been called to the witness stand and subjected to potentially withering questioning.

These included chairman Rupert Murdoch, Fox CEO Suzanne Scott and on-air hosts including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro.

The decision to settle also followed a ruling by the judge that Fox could not invoke free speech protections under the US constitution in its defence.

Fox News is the most-watched US cable news network, according to Nielsen.

The primary question for jurors was to be whether Fox knowingly spread false information or recklessly disregarded the truth, the standard of “actual malice” that Dominion must show to prevail in a defamation case.

Based on a slew of internal communications, Dominion alleged that Fox staff, from newsroom employees all the way up to Murdoch, knew the statements were false but continued to air them out of fear of losing viewers to media competitors on the right.

Adding to the legal risks for Fox, another US voting technology company, Smartmatic, is pursuing its own defamation lawsuit seeking $US2.7 billion ($4.01 billion) in damages in a New York state court.

Fox Corp reported nearly $US14 billion ($20.8 billion) in annual revenue last year.

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