Trial Obverted, Fox Will Pay Dominion a Whopping $787.5 Million to Settle
Dominion Voting Systems accused Fox News of propagating theories that were harmful to the company. In a last-ditch effort to resolve the dispute, Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems agreed.
Fox: ‘We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute.'
On Tuesday, the judge in the defamation lawsuit against Fox News announced that it had been settled, bringing a sudden conclusion to the long-running fight over disinformation in the 2020 election.
After two years and the release of hundreds of thousands of pages of records, which revealed the inner workings of a media organization that had hitherto resisted outside examination, the case was abruptly settled at the last minute. Dominion's attorney, Justin Nelson, said that Fox paid $787.5 million for the settlement.
"Truth is important. Lies have repercussions, he said in front of the courthouse. "Over two years ago, a flood of lies swept Dominion and election officials throughout America into an alternate universe of conspiracy theories, causing grievous harm to Dominion and the nation," the statement reads.
Dominion's initial demand for compensation for damages was $1.6 billion. In a statement released by the company, Fox Corporation said, "We acknowledge the court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false."
The statement continued, "We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues."
An agreement was reached just a few minutes before the opening statements were scheduled to begin. This occurred a few hours after a jury was selected in Wilmington, Delaware. The attorneys for both camps had been preparing to present their cases to the jury, and they had fastened microphones to the lapels of their jackets in preparation for doing so.
As a result of the unexpected settlement, none of the high-profile figures at Fox, including those who had privately expressed concerns about the veracity of claims being made on its shows, will be required to testify in the case. On the list of anticipated witnesses were executives from Fox, such as Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation, and hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Maria Bartiromo.
It was the most recent shocking development in a case that had the potential to be one of the most significant legal challenges brought against a news organization in the last few decades.
It was anticipated that the trial would be a significant test of the First Amendment and raise questions regarding whether or not the law of defamation adequately protects victims of misinformation campaigns.
Although the settlement prevents a drawn-out court proceeding, it results in an extremely unusual instance of accountability for efforts to discredit President Biden's victory. Few individuals or organizations have been subjected to legal consequences due to allegations of election fraud raised by former President Donald J. Trump or supporters of his campaign.
Dominion filed a lawsuit against Fox at the beginning of 2021, claiming that the network had severely harmed its reputation by repeatedly airing falsehoods about Dominion's voting machines. Fox has denied any wrongdoing, stating that it had merely reported on newsworthy allegations coming from Mr. Trump and his lawyers, and that the First Amendment for doing so protected it.
Judge Eric M. Davis had previously decided that statements Fox had broadcast about Dominion were untrue. He also decided that Fox's attorneys could not argue that the company broadcast false information on the basis that the allegations were newsworthy, which effectively limited some of Fox's potential defenses.
At the trial, the question of whether or not Fox had acted with "actual malice" — a legal standard that means it had knowingly broadcast lies or had recklessly disregarded obvious evidence that the statements were untrue — would have been presented to a jury. They would have been tasked with answering the question.