Fox News trial delayed, network ‘seeking settlement’

The start of Dominion Voting Systems’  defamation trial against Fox News has been pushed back a day, amid reports the media giant is pursuing settlement talks.

A source familiar with the matter who was not authorised to speak publicly told Reuters that Fox is seeking a possible settlement. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal also reported that Fox was pursuing settlement talks, citing sources.

Dominion is suing Fox Corp and Fox News in a $US1.6 billion ($2.4 billion) defamation lawsuit over the network’s coverage of the 2020 US presidential election.

“The court has decided to continue the start of the trial, including jury selection, until Tuesday, April 18, 2023 at 9am,” Judge Eric Davis said in a statement on Monday (US time), without providing a reason for the delay.

“I will make such an announcement tomorrow at 9am in courtroom 7E,” he added.

The parties can settle anytime before or during the trial.

Judge Davis had said last Thursday he expected to conclude jury selection on Monday and to proceed to opening statements. The trial was expected to last six weeks, before a jury of 12 local Delaware residents who will have to decide if Fox knowingly published false information about Dominion or recklessly disregarded information showing that the claims were not true.

A Dominion spokesperson declined to comment on the latest developments. Fox did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the delay.

Last Wednesday, Judge Davis sanctioned Fox News, handing Dominion a fresh chance to gather evidence after Fox withheld records until the eve of the trial.

The evidence includes recordings of Rudy Giuliani, former US president Donald Trump’s lawyer, saying in pre-taped Fox appearances that he did not have any evidence to back up the false allegations of election rigging by Dominion in the 2020 race that are at the heart of the lawsuit.

The recordings were made by a former Fox employee who is suing the network.

Judge Davis said he would also very likely tap an outside investigator to probe Fox’s late disclosure of the evidence and take whatever steps necessary to remedy the situation, which he described as troubling.

Fox said in a statement on Wednesday that it “produced the supplemental information” to Dominion “when we first learned it”.

The trial is one of the most closely-watched US defamation cases in years, involving a leading cable news outlet with numerous conservative commentators.

Fox owner Rupert Murdoch is expected to testify, along with a parade of Fox executives and on-air hosts, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro.

Dominion has accused Fox of ruining its reputation by airing baseless claims that its machines secretly changed votes in favour of Democrat Joe Biden, who defeated then-president Trump, a Republican, in the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion has said Fox’s conduct was damaging to American democracy and the network must be held accountable. Fox, which has described the court action as a “political crusade in search of a financial windfall”,  said on Friday that the lawsuit was a threat to press freedom.

-with AAP

Topics: Fox News
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