On the Site:

AP

Judge: Dominion defamation case against Fox will go to trial

Mar 31, 2023, 4:53 PM | Updated: 4:55 pm

FILE - A headline about President Donald Trump is displayed outside Fox News studios in New York on...

FILE - A headline about President Donald Trump is displayed outside Fox News studios in New York on Nov. 28, 2018. Documents in defamation lawsuit illustrate pressures faced by Fox News journalists in the weeks after the 2020 presidential election. The network was on a collision course between giving its conservative audience what it wanted and reporting uncomfortable truths about then-President Donald Trump and his false fraud claims. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware judge’s ruling Friday set the stage for a dramatic springtime trial on whether Fox News bears financial responsibility for airing false allegations that a voting machine company rigged the 2020 presidential election against former President Donald Trump.

Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled that it was “CRYSTAL clear” that none of the allegations made by Trump allies on Fox in the weeks after the election were true.

Davis said it was up to a jury to decide whether Fox acted with actual malice in airing the claims and, if so, how much money Dominion is entitled to in damages. Dominion has sued Fox for $1.6 billion.

Barring a last-minute settlement, the trial is expected to begin in mid-April.

“The statements at issue were dramatically different than the truth,” Davis said in a summary judgment ruling, which denied Fox’s effort to throw out the case as well as Dominion’s request for a victory without a jury. “In fact, although it cannot be attributed directly to Fox’s statements, it is noteworthy that some Americans still believe the election was rigged.”

Fox’s failure to reveal extensive evidence contradicting the fraud claims “indicates that its reporting was not disinterested,” the judge wrote.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Dominion said it was gratified that the court had rejected Fox’s arguments and found “as a matter of law that their statements about Dominion are false. We look forward to going to trial.”

Fox emphasized that the case is about the media’s First Amendment protections, and that it was trying to cover highly newsworthy developments — a sitting president’s claim that an election was rigged.

“Fox will continue to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press as we move into the next phase of these proceedings,” the network said in a statement Friday.

The ruling sets the stage for a trial in which Fox News stars such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Maria Bartiromo, as well as network founder Rupert Murdoch, could be called to the stand.

Even before the judge’s ruling, thousands of pages of evidence presented in the case showed Fox executives and stars he hated Trump “passionately.”

During a deposition, Murdoch testified that he believed the 2020 election was fair and had not been stolen from the former president.

“Fox knew the truth,” Dominion argued in court papers. “It knew the allegations against Dominion were ‘outlandish’ and ‘crazy’ and ‘ludicrous’ and ‘nuts.’ Yet it used the power and influence of its platform to promote that false story.”

Fox aired the allegations despite the doubts of its hosts and executives, and the coverage helped feed an ecosystem of misinformation surrounding Trump’s loss in 2020 that has persisted ever since.

The documents also showed Fox feared losing viewers angered by the network’s election night call of Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden, and how it didn’t want to alienate viewers who backed Trump.

In methodically going through each side’s arguments, Davis said neither Fox nor Dominion had presented a convincing argument for him to rule on whether or not the network acted with malice.

“These are genuine issues of material fact and therefore must be determined by a jury,” he said.

Davis denied summary judgment to Dominion on whether Fox Corp., the news network’s parent company, was liable for the statements being aired — meaning the corporate executives’ responsibility will have to be settled at trial.

The Trump allies had falsely claimed after the election that Dominion’s machines and accompanying software had switched votes from Trump to Biden. Dominion claims it has lost millions of dollars in business because this belief spread across the country; Fox contends its claims are overblown.

“The calculation of damages is a question for the jury,” Davis said.

Davis ruled that the statements Dominion had challenged constitute defamation “per se” under New York law. That means Dominion did not have to prove damages to establish liability by Fox.

The U.S. Supreme Court limited the ability of public figures to sue for defamation in a 1964 case involving The New York Times. It ruled that plaintiffs needed to prove that news outlets published or aired false material with “actual malice” — knowing it was false or acting with a “reckless disregard” for whether or not it was true.

That has provided news organizations with stout protection against libel judgments. The nearly six-decade legal standard has come under attack by some conservatives in recent years, including Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have argued for making it easier to win a libel case.


Bauder reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

AP

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Servic...

Colleen Long and Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press

Iran threat prompted increased protection of Trump, Saturday attack appears unrelated, officials say

A threat from Iran prompted moves by the U.S. Secret Service to boost protection around Donald Trump before Saturday's attempted assassination of the former president, which appears unrelated to the original threat, according to two U.S. officials.

15 hours ago

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 15: Stands are seen set for opening ceremony along Seine river a on July 15, 2...

Tom Nouvian and Suman Naishadham

Will the Seine be clean enough by the Olympics? Not even the experts know yet

With the Paris Olympics 10 days away, a question hangs over the Games: Will the Seine River be clean enough for athletes to swim in it?

19 hours ago

FILE - An Amazon Prime cardboard shipping box label is seen on March 17, 2023, in East Derry, N.H. ...

Wyatte Grantham-Philips and Haleluya Hadero, AP Business Writers

Amazon Prime Day is a big event for scams, experts warn

Amazon Prime Day is here, and experts are reminding consumers to be wary of scams during the two-day sale event.

22 hours ago

Butler County, Pa. Sheriff Michael Slupe is pictured during an interview in Butler, Pa., Monday, Ju...

Mark Scolforo, Erick Tucker and Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press

Signs of trouble at Trump rally were evident in minutes before gunman opened fire

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — Signs of trouble were evident in the minutes before shots rang out at Donald Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania: Police had a report of a suspicious man pacing near the magnetometers and were apparently exchanging photos of the suspect. Witnesses pointed and shouted at an armed man on a nearby roof. When […]

2 days ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, ...

Jill Colvin, Steve Peoples and Zeke Miller

Trump announces Vance as VP pick

Donald Trump is expected to announce his vice presidential pick on the first day of the Republican National Convention

2 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Butle...

Eric Tucker

Federal judge dismisses Trump classified documents case over concerns with prosecutor’s appointment

Judge dismisses Trump classified documents case over concerns about legality of special counsel's appointment.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Judge: Dominion defamation case against Fox will go to trial