(New York) The long-awaited trial will not take place. Anxious to avoid further exposure of its lies about the 2020 presidential election, news channel Fox News reached an out-of-court settlement on Tuesday with voting machine maker Dominion Voting Systems, which had sued the in early 2021 a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against her.
Announced at the last minute, the deal calls for $787.5 million to be paid by Fox News to Dominion, according to Justin Nelson, one of the election tech company’s attorneys.
“The truth is important. Lies have consequences,” the attorney told reporters outside the courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware, where the trial was to take place. “More than two years ago, a torrent of lies swept Dominion election officials across America into an alternate universe of conspiracy theories, causing serious harm to Dominion and the country. »
Dominion boss John Poulos hailed a “historic” settlement, the largest in US history on defamation.
“Fox admitted to lying about Dominion,” he said.
Fox vicariously admitted wrongdoing in a written statement: “We note the Court’s judgments holding certain assertions regarding Dominion to be false. »
The observers’ verdicts were not long in coming.
“With this settlement, everyone wins,” Martin Garbus, a lawyer specializing in First Amendment issues to the Constitution, told The New York Times. “Fox is on his way. Dominion collects the money. »
Michael Socolow, professor in the department of communications and journalism at the University of Maine, did not contradict the famous jurist.
“The amount Fox News was willing to pay is staggering,” he told La Presse. Dominion can’t be blamed for agreeing to a $787 million settlement. To put it into perspective, that’s $29 million a year for every year Fox News has been in existence, or 27 years. »
Some of the public would still have liked the truth about the lies conveyed by Fox News and its hosts to be revealed to as many Americans as possible in the context of a trial.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis announced the settlement more than two hours after jury selection ended and before opening arguments began. It thus brought an abrupt end to a trial whose preliminary stages had already generated enormous media interest due to the sensational revelations concerning Fox News executives and stars.
The trial promised to be historic for another reason. In a country where it is very rare for a media outlet to be convicted of defamation, Dominion seemed to have collected enough evidence to establish that Fox News had acted with “actual malice”, a major legal hurdle.
Dominion accused Fox News of misleading viewers into believing its voting machines were used to rig the results of the 2020 presidential election and deprive Donald Trump of the victory he was due. However, the technology company was ready to present to the jury documents and testimonies intended to prove that the leaders and animators of the chain knew that the theories propagated by allies of the ex-president were false.
According to the evidence available to Dominion, these lies had only one purpose: to stem the flight of Fox News viewers to Newsmax and OAN, its more Trumpist competitors.
“Sidney Powell is lying, by the way. I cornered her. This is insane,” network superstar Tucker Carlson wrote to co-worker Laura Ingraham on Nov. 18, 2020.
And Ingraham replies, “Sidney is absolutely crazy. No one will want to work with her. Same for Rudy [Giuliani]. »
Sidney Powell, a lawyer allied with Donald Trump, was nevertheless invited several times on Fox News, where she was able to present her conspiracy theories concerning Dominion. One such theory was that the company’s voting machines were designed to rig elections in favor of Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez and were equipped with an algorithm that could erase a candidate’s votes and give them to another.
Rupert Murdoch, head of the Fox News media empire, after seeing a press conference on television featuring Powell and Giuliani once wrote to the station’s executive, Suzanne Scott: “Terrible things harming everyone, I’m afraid. »
Murdoch and Scott were to parade at the helm, as were the Carlsons, Ingrahams, Sean Hannity and Maria Bartiromo, among other hosts.
Until settling the lawsuit out of court, the 1996-founded channel defended itself by arguing that it had simply reported newsworthy allegations made by Donald Trump’s allies and was protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press.
Regardless: Fox News is not out of the woods. Smartmatic, another election tech company, filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against the channel in February 2021.
“Dominion’s lawsuit exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign. Smartmatic will expose the rest,” the company promised in a statement.