As targets go, it’s second only to You Know Who, but the fights get tougher as Dominion Voting Systems goes up in weight class. The company filed a $1.6 billion defamation claim against Fox News this morning — the first time it’s gone after a media company:
Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed in an effort to boost faltering ratings that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election.
It’s the first defamation suit filed against a media outlet by the voting company, which was a target of misleading, false and bizarre claims spread by President Donald Trump and his allies in the aftermath of Trump’s election loss to Joe Biden. Those claims helped spur on rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a violent siege that left five people dead, including a police officer. The siege led to Trump’s historic second impeachment.
Dominion argues that Fox News, which amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes, “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process,” according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press.
This might be the legal equivalent of tilting at windmills. Suing Sidney Powell, Mike Lindell, and Rudy Giuliani targets the sources of the defamation; Fox News was arguably just an enthusiastic consumer of those conspiracy theories. In some cases with its hosts, very enthusiastic, as the lawsuit contends, but the media outlet exists to report news. If that’s the “commercial interest” that Dominion claims, it’s the same commercial interest that every media outlet in the US has … eyeballs.
Furthermore, Fox News hit reverse relatively early in the insanity. Dominion began sending around cease-and-desist letters rebutting the conspiracy theories after the election, but Fox had already begun doing some (decidedly unenthusiastic) debunking segments on its prime-time shows by then. The Associated Press notes that, but Dominion claims that Fox News ignored them for a while first:
Some Fox News on-air reporting segments have debunked some of the claims targeting Dominion. …
Dominion said in the lawsuit that it tried repeatedly to set the record straight but was ignored by Fox News.
Dominion will argue that the promotion of the insane conspiracy theories around their operations was meant by Fox News to retain Trump supporters among its viewership. Perhaps, but it appeared that its prime-time hosts were also true believers in the idea. That, and Fox’s belated debunking of the allegations on its prime-time shows, will make it very difficult to prove the kind of malice that would be required for this lawsuit to succeed. Not impossible, but more difficult than it will be against the other targets of their lawsuits, who to this day still haven’t done what Fox News (and Newsmax) did … essentially contradict their earlier reporting on their own air in Dominion’s favor, long before the lawsuit got filed.
For instance, remember when Tucker Carlson essentially crucified Powell on Fox News’ prime time over these allegations against Dominion? This aired on November 20th — pretty early on:
BREAKING: Tucker Carlson slams Sidney Powell for making wild claims, but providing no evidence. pic.twitter.com/FPCAZ0KHEf
— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) November 20, 2020
A lot of people with impressive sounding credentials in this country are frauds; they have no idea what they’re doing. They’re children posing as authorities, and when they’re caught, they lie and then they blame you for it. We see that every day; it’s the central theme of this show and will continue to be. So, that’s the long way of saying we took Sidney Powell seriously; we have no intention of fighting with her, we’ve always respected her work — we simply wanted to see the details. How could you not want to see them? So we invited Sidney Powell on this show. We would’ve given her the whole hour; we would’ve given her the entire week actually and listened quietly the whole time at rapt attention — that’s a big story. But she never sent us any evidence despite a lot of requests, polite requests, not a page. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her. When we checked with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they told us Powell has never given them any evidence either, nor did she provide any today at the press conference. Powell did say electronic voting is dangerous, and she’s right — we’re with her there — but she never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another, not one.
If I was handling this for Fox News, this would be Exhibit A for the defense. At the very least, it shows that the outlet was willing to challenge that narrative early on.
Still, one has to wonder whether Fox News might find it easier to settle this quietly with Dominion (and Smartmatic, which named the outlet in a defamation suit that included Giuliani and Powell). It will be very expensive to fight this suit, and they have the most to lose in terms of public standing from a protracted discovery process. How much is it worth to avoid those potential losses?
Update: In an e-mail to Hot Air, Fox News Media pledges to “vigorously defend” themselves in this action:
“FOX News Media is proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism, and will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”
They also note that they have filed motions to dismiss in the Smartmatic lawsuit, which apparently have yet to be heard in court. Stay tuned.