2020 US election: Why is Fox News being sued by Dominion Voting Systems?

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss, conspiracy theories began to swirl about voting machines being rigged in order to hand the election to Joe Biden.

Those lies were soon broadcast on Fox News.

Dominion Voting Systems, a voting technology company used for the 2020 election, is suing Fox News Network for billions over the claims about rigging in Mr Biden’s win over Mr Trump.

The claims that the election was “stolen” were repeated by Mr Trump, those closest to him and his supporters.

Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, claimed the rigging or “smear” was a “blatant violation of the First Amendment”.

Court documents have already unearthed astounding revelations and expose how the right-wing media company’s own people, including Mr Murdoch, never believed the claims of rigging.

What is the Dominion-Fox News lawsuit about?

When Mr Trump failed to concede he had lost the election, lies started to spread about it having been rigged.

Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s former lawyer, and Sidney Powell, his legal adviser, were among those who spread the conspiracies about the election on Fox News.

No evidence of widespread election fraud has ever been found, and this was the same view Mr Trump’s attorney general formed.

Fox News gave airtime to conspiracy theories that claimed votes lodged through Dominion’s systems were removed or altered in favour of Mr Biden. Such claims were also the reason behind why many of Mr Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Dominion is suing Fox for defamation and is seeking $US1.6 billion ($2.4 billion) in damages.

The trial is scheduled for April.

What does Dominion’s lawsuit claim?

Dominion repeatedly tried to set the record straight and claimed the lies being spread and amplified on Fox News hurt its business.

The company also said Fox News spread the false claims in an attempt to appease its viewers, who typically lean conservative.

Dominion’s case is based on the belief that employees at Fox News intentionally amplified the false claims about the company participating in election fraud.

The company also claims Fox provided a place for guests to make defamatory and false statements.

It’s argued that internal communications and depositions by Fox personnel prove the network knowingly spread falsehoods about Mr Trump’s loss in the 2020 US presidential election to bolster its ratings.

“Executives at all levels of Fox – both (Fox News Network) and (Fox Corporation) – knowingly opened Fox’s airwaves to false conspiracy theories about Dominion,” the company wrote in its filing.

What do Fox and Murdoch claim?

Fox claims it was simply covering a subject that was newsworthy, given Mr Trump and his allies were all repeating the conspiracy theories.

Fox News has also claimed Dominion is attempting to smear the company through the lawsuit.

In its own filing made public last week, Fox argued that its coverage of statements by Mr Trump and his lawyers were inherently newsworthy and that Dominion’s “extreme” interpretation of defamation law would “stop the media in its tracks”.

Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said last week he believes the case just proves how polarised the world is and that it’s “really about the politics”.

“I think a lot of the noise that you hear about this case is actually not about the law and it’s not about journalism,” he said.

What has come out of the court documents?

Since some of the court documents have been made public, there have been several revelations, such as Rupert Murdoch acknowledging he never believed the claims of the stolen election, and how some of Mr Trump’s most prominent public supporters privately don’t like him.

  • When questioned by Dominion’s lawyers in January, Mr Murdoch agreed the 2020 election was not “stolen”
  • Mr Murdoch also acknowledged some of the hosts on Fox News endorsed the false claims and said some went “too far”
  • Text messages sent by Tucker Carlson, one of Fox’s commentators, reveal he “passionately” hated Donald Trump. “He’s a demonic force, a destroyer. But he’s not going to destroy us. I’ve been thinking about this every day for four years,” Carlson said following the insurrection
  • Mr Murdoch said he believes it was wrong for Carlson to have known conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell on the Fox News program. Repeatedly having Mr Lindell on the network was a business decision, according to Mr Murdoch
  • Former politician and one of Fox Corporation’s board members, Paul Ryan, suggested the network move on from Mr Trump following the 2020 election and “stop spouting election lies”
  • In an email to Mr Ryan, Mr Murdoch acknowledged one of Fox’s hosts, Sean Hannity, had been “privately disgusted by Trump for weeks” but feared he would lose viewers
  • Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was given confidential information about Mr Biden’s ads and debate strategy in 2020 by Mr Murdoch.
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