Fox News: Judge allows defamation case to be heard

DOVER, Del. –

The ruling by a Delaware judge on Friday set the stage for a dramatic spring trial over whether Fox News was financially responsible for airing false allegations that a production company voting machines rigged the 2020 presidential election against former US president Donald Trump.

Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled that it was “CLEARLY CLEAR” that none of the allegations made by Trump’s allies against Fox in the weeks following the election were true.

Davis said the jury will decide whether Fox acted in genuine malice in making the statements and, if so, how much money Dominion is entitled to to pay damages. Dominion sued Fox for $1.6 billion.

Except for a last-minute deal, the trial is expected to begin in mid-April.

“The statements at issue are significantly different from the facts,” Davis said in a summary ruling, dismissing Fox’s attempt to drop the lawsuit as well as Dominion’s claim for a win. without a jury. “In fact, while Fox’s statements cannot be directly attributed, it is remarkable that some Americans still believe the election was rigged.”

The judge wrote that Fox’s failure to disclose much of the evidence that contradicts the fraudulent claims “shows that their reporting was not taken into account.”

In a statement released after the ruling, Dominion said it was pleased the court had dismissed Fox’s arguments and found that “under the law, their claims about Dominion are false. We look forward to bringing them to justice. go to court.”

Fox emphasized that the incident involved First Amendment protections by the media and that it was attempting to cover notable developments – a sitting president’s claim that a the election was rigged.

“Fox will continue to fight fiercely for freedom of speech and freedom of the press as we move into the next phase of this proceeding,” the network said in a statement Friday.

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

Even before the judge’s verdict, thousands of pages of evidence presented in the case showed that Fox executives and stars privately mocked the allegations and voiced their opinions. outspoken, such as Carlson saying he hates Trump “crazy”.

During his impeachment, Murdoch testified that he believed the 2020 election was fair and not stolen from the former president.

“Fox knows the truth,” Dominion argued in the court papers. “They knew the allegations against Dominion were ‘weird’, ‘crazy’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘crazy.’ However, it used the power and influence of its platform to promote itself. for that false story.”

Fox aired the allegations despite the suspicions of their hosts and executives, and the coverage helped provide an ecosystem of misinformation surrounding Trump’s defeat in the United States. 2020 has persisted ever since.

The documents also show how Fox is afraid of losing viewers angry at the Arizona network’s election night call to Democrat Joe Biden, and how they don’t want to alienate pro-Trump viewers.

In methodically reviewing each side’s arguments, Davis said neither Fox nor Dominion had come up with a compelling argument for him to rule on whether the network acted maliciously.

“These are substantive matters of fact and therefore must be determined by a jury,” he said.

Davis declined to brief Dominion’s judgment on whether Fox Corp., the news network’s parent company, is legally responsible for statements broadcast – that is, the responsibility of the directors. company executives will have to be dealt with in court.

Trump’s allies falsely claimed after the election that Dominion’s machine and its accompanying software transferred votes from Trump to Biden. Dominion claims they have lost millions of dollars in business as this belief spreads across the country; Fox argues that their claims are exaggerated.

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

Davis has ruled that the claims Dominion challenged constitute defamation “in essence” under New York law. That means Dominion doesn’t have to prove damages to establish Fox’s liability.

The U.S. Supreme Court restricted the ability to sue public figures for defamation in a 1964 case involving The New York Times. It ruled that the plaintiffs needed to prove that news outlets published or broadcast untrue material with “genuine malice” – knowing it was false or acting with “reckless disregard” for whether that’s true or not.

That has provided news organizations with solid protection against defamation judgments. The nearly six-decade-long legal standard has been attacked by a number of conservatives in recent years, including Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who have argued about making it easier to win a defamation lawsuit. ass becomes easier.


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

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