Rupert Murdoch says Fox News hosts ‘endorsed’ false election fraud claims
Fox News owner and billionaire media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has acknowledged that some television hosts “endorsed” the idea that the US election was stolen from Donald Trump.
The Fox Corp chairman’s acknowledgement was made under oath amid a lawsuit against Fox News and its coverage of the 2020 presidential election, court documents have revealed.
Dominion Voting Systems is leading the $1.6 billion (£1.3 billion) defamation lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp, after citing irreparable harm to its business.
A five-week trial is scheduled to begin on April 17.
Documents in the case in Delaware state court show Mr Murdoch and other Fox executives believed Joe Biden fairly beat Donald Trump and that the results were not in doubt.
Mr Murdoch’s testimony is from his deposition in the lawsuit.
Asked by a Dominion lawyer if some of Fox’s commentators had endorsed the idea that the 2020 election was stolen, Mr Murdoch responded, “Yes. They endorsed,” according to the filing.
When questioned, Mr Murdoch said “some of (Fox’s) commentators were endorsing” the narrative of a stolen election, including “maybe Lou Dobbs” and “maybe Maria (Bartiromo).”
Mr Murdoch’s testimony and other material in the filing shed light on Fox’s internal deliberations as it covered the election-rigging claims and sought to avoid losing viewers to far-right competitors that embraced Mr Trump’s false narrative.
Fox has argued that its coverage of claims by Mr Trump’s lawyers were inherently newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Dominion has argued that internal communications and depositions by Fox staff prove the network knowingly spread falsehoods about Mr Trump’s loss in the 2020 US presidential election in order to boost its ratings.
Dominion claims in its filing that Mr Murdoch closely monitored Fox coverage but declined to wield his powerful editorial influence despite strong concerns about Fox’s coverage.
Mr Murdoch testified that he believed early on that “everything was on the up-and-up” with the election, and that he doubted claims of election fraud from the very beginning.
Asked by a Dominion lawyer if he could have prevented Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani from continuing to spread falsehoods about the election on air, Mr Murdoch responded, “I could have. But I didn’t,” according to Dominion’s filing.
In its own filing made public Monday, Fox argued that its coverage of statements by Mr Trump and his lawyers were inherently newsworthy and that Dominion’s “extreme” interpretation of defamation law would “stop the media in its tracks.”
“Under Dominion’s approach, if the President falsely accused the Vice President of plotting to assassinate him, the press would be liable for reporting the newsworthy allegation so long as someone in the newsroom thought it was ludicrous,” Fox said.
Dominion sued Fox News Networks and parent company Fox Corp in March 2021 and November 2021 in Delaware Superior Court, alleging the cable TV network amplified false claims that Dominion voting machines were used to rig the 2020 election against Trump.
In a statement Monday, a Fox spokesperson said Dominion’s view of defamation law “would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear Fox for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment.”