In a last-minute settlement Tuesday, Fox agreed to pay voting equipment company Dominion $787.5 million, ending a dispute over whether the network and its parent company knowingly aired false and outlandish allegations that Dominion was involved in a conspiracy to steal the 2020 election.
Analysts say while the settlement amount is incredibly expensive, Fox has avoided the most damaging sight a trial and a public apology.
But he still faces a number of legal challenges over the coming months.
A London-based global election technology company, Smartmatic, filed a libel suit against Fox in February 2021. The suit’s striking opening sentence reads, “The Earth is round. Two plus two is four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won the 2020 election…”
Like Dominion, Smartmatic is suing Fox for defamation related to its coverage of Donald Trump’s stolen election lie, but the company’s lawsuit has so far garnered only a fraction of the attention.
On paper, Smartmatic’s lawsuit could be the most dangerous: it seeks damages of $2.7 billion compared to Dominion’s $1.6 billion.
In March, the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan gave the green light for the case to proceed against Fox NewsFox Business host Maria Bartiromo, former business anchor Lou Dobbs and former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
The company argues that FoxNews broadcast a series of blatant lies in support of Trump’s stolen election conspiracy theory and that hosts and guests broadcast 100 false claims: among them that Smartmatic was involved in counting the 2020 election in six states from the battlefield when in fact he was only present at the Los Angeles County count.
Statements aired on Fox describe Smartmatic as having been founded in Venezuela at the behest of corrupt dictators. In fact, it was founded by Antonio Mugica and Roger Piñate in 2000 in Boca Raton, Florida, following the “hanging chad” fiasco, with the aim of using technology to restore people’s confidence in election results.
The company says it has lost customers as a result of what it calls Fox’s “misinformation campaign”, while Fox News disputed Smartmatic’s multi-billion dollar estimate of its losses, saying calling it very bloated.
Smartmatic has a very high bar to hit if it wants to win the libel case at trial. Under New York, plaintiffs must be able to convince a jury that the news outlet not only disseminated false information, but did so with “actual malice.”
Fox News said “Freedom of the press is fundamental to our democracy and must be protected, in addition to outrageous, unsubstantiated damages claims that are not based on sound financial analysis, serving no more than a blatant attempt to dissuade our reporters from doing their jobs.There is nothing more newsworthy than covering up the President of the United States and his lawyers making allegations.
A trial date has not been set.
In March, the Abby Grossberg, former Fox News producer filed a pair of lawsuits claiming network attorneys “coached” and “bullied” her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion lawsuit.
Fox News filed its own countersuit, seeking a restraining order to prevent Grossberg from revealing conversations she had with the network’s attorneys.
Grossberg, a senior producer and head of bookings for Tucker Carlson who also worked on Maria Bartiromo’s show, alleged in her lawsuit that the network tried to shift blame on Fox News airing voting plots about her and Bartiromo — an effort that Grossberg said was part of a broader culture of sexism and misogyny at Fox News.
Grossberg accused Fox News attorneys of dragging her out in a “coercive and intimidating manner” before her testimony in the Dominion case.
At the time, a Fox spokesperson said, “Fox News Media has engaged independent outside counsel to immediately investigate the concerns raised by Ms. Grossberg, which were formulated after a critical performance review. His allegations in connection with the Dominion case are without merit and we will vigorously defend Fox against all of his claims.
In August 2022, Fox Corp chief executive Lachlan Murdoch launched libel proceedings against Australian independent news site Crikey. The allegation related to an article published in June 2022 that called the Murdoch family an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the attack on the US Capitol.
Defending Crikey’s publisher, Private Media, relies primarily on evidence revealed by Dominion’s libel suit.
Private Media’s defense alleges that Lachlan Murdoch “closely monitored Fox News Network’s handling of election reporting,” according to his Dominion deposition, and was “generally aware of the allegations made by Sidney Powell on Fox News Network at the time they were in progress, which were to the effect that the 2020 US presidential election had been fraudulently stolen from Mr. Trump”.
Their expanded defense includes the recent admission by Rupert Murdoch that Fox News hosts endorsed Trump’s false claims.
Murdoch’s attorney, Sue Chrysanthou SC, stated at a previous hearing she would seek to strike out the contextual truth defense, which she called vague.
“This defense is not rational, it is not defensible, it is a waste of everyone’s time, and it serves no legitimate purpose of litigation,” the attorney said.
This week, Reuters reported that Fox Corp shareholders were demanding company records in a bid to verify whether directors and executives were properly overseeing Fox News’ coverage of Trump voter fraud allegations. Reuters said it could be a prelude to lawsuits seeking to hold directors responsible for the charges.
Sources told Reuters investors were demanding internal records to investigate how Fox executives acted as its network aired segments about Trump’s false claims.
Analysts say shareholders could use those records along with evidence presented in other lawsuits to build a case for Fox executives to be held personally liable for charges related to defamation cases.
A Fox spokesperson did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report