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Judge Orders Jury Trial in Dominion Voting Systems’ Lawsuit Against Fox News

Fox News
Protesters at New Corp Headquarters ( Photo: Forbes)

A judge in Delaware has ordered a jury trial in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News, one of the most consequential defamation decisions against an American media company in decades.

Fox News

FOX News (Photo: The New Republic)

Dominion has accused Fox of airing false information about the company’s software, which was promoted by former President Trump’s associates and allies after the 2020 election.

Fox had requested the court to throw out the suit ahead of trial, but Judge Eric Davis rejected it, stating that Dominion has proven that the network’s statements about Dominion and the 2020 election were false. However, the jury must decide whether Fox operated with actual malice. The network’s lawyers have defended the conservative cable news company on First Amendment grounds, stating that the claims being made by Trump and his allies were newsworthy. The trial will likely span weeks and could bring to light internal discussions at the network following the 2020 election.

The outcome of the case is certain to have major implications for Fox’s future and media law more generally. The process of discovery has been an embarrassing one for the nation’s top-rated network, with several private communications and depositions by leading hosts and executives at the network in the post-election period brought to light.

Internal text messages and emails from top hosts at Fox showed them throwing cold water on Trump’s false claims of electoral fraud but worrying how fact-checking those claims might hurt their standing with their audience. In one email that surfaced as part of the lawsuit, Rupert Murdoch, owner, and co-chairman of Fox Corp. worried that top hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham “went too far” in endorsing former President Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.

A jury trial could force several of Fox’s biggest stars onto the witness stand, with lawyers for both sides expressing a desire to call hosts like Tucker Carlson, Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Bret Baier, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro.

Neither side has shown any interest publicly in settling the case.

This is unusual given the high financial stakes involved and the public relations lashing an open court proceeding would pose to the country’s top cable news company.

The judgment also came on the heels of a separate lawsuit filed by a former top producer at Fox who alleges she was coached in “a coercive and intimidating manner” to protect executives and on-air talent as part of the Dominion suit. Fox has denied the allegations, stating that the assertion that the producer was coached or intimidated into being dishonest during her Dominion deposition is patently false.

In order to find Fox liable for the damages it seeks, Dominion will have to prove to a jury that the network acted with actual malice, or reckless disregard for the truth, in publishing Trump’s election claims, which Davis, in his summary, wrote is still unclear.

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