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Judge refuses to dismiss $1.6B suit against Fox News over 2020 election claims

WCCO Radio Minneapolis logo WCCO Radio Minneapolis 12/17/2021 Stephanie Raymond
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A judge in Delaware has denied a request from Fox News to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over claims about the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion Voting Systems claims it was the target of misleading, false and bizarre claims spread by President Donald Trump and his allies in the aftermath of his election loss to Joe Biden.

The company filed the defamation lawsuit against Fox News in March 2021, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed -- in an effort to boost faltering ratings -- that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election.

The lawsuit alleges that Fox News amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes and "sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process."

"The truth matters. Lies have consequences," the lawsuit said. "Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does."

According to the lawsuit, Fox personalities including Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity brought on Trump allies, such as Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell, that the network "knew would make false and defamatory statements" about the voting machine company.

"Fox republished those defamatory and false statements of fact on the air, Fox's websites, Fox's social media accounts, and Fox's other digital platforms and subscription services," the lawsuit said.

In the two-week period after Fox News declared President Biden the president-elect, the network questioned results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories at least 774 times, according to the lawsuit.

Dominion said it attempted to factually address Fox's election fraud allegations, but Fox continued to connect the company to the claims.

An investigation by the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Fox requested the lawsuit be dismissed on three separate grounds. First, the network said that truthfully reporting newsworthy allegations made by a sitting president and his legal team on matters of public concern is not actionable. Second, Fox said that the media is completely protected when reporting and commenting about allegations made in government proceedings. Third, the network asserted that opinion and hyperbolic rhetoric about newsworthy allegations are constitutionally protected.

The judge wasn't moved by Fox's request. In his ruling, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis said it is "reasonably conceivable that Dominion has a claim for defamation."

"The Court can infer that Fox intended to avoid the truth," Davis said. "Fox therefore may have failed to report the issue truthfully or dispassionately by skewing questioning and approving responses in a way that fit or promoted a narrative in which Dominion committed election fraud."

"When Fox guests spread or reiterated disinformation about Dominion, Fox did not use the information Dominion provided to correct its guests or to reorient its viewers. Instead, Fox and its personnel pressed their view that considerable evidence connected Dominion to an illegal election fraud conspiracy," Davis continued. "Given that Fox apparently refused to report contrary evidence, including evidence from the Department of Justice, the Complaint’s allegations support the reasonable inference that Fox intended to keep Dominion’s side of the story out of the narrative."

Fox News issued a statement following the judge's ruling.

"As we have maintained, FOX News, along with every single news organization across the country, vigorously covered the breaking news surrounding the unprecedented 2020 election, providing full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear-cut analysis," the statement said. "We remain committed to defending against this baseless lawsuit and its all-out assault on the First Amendment."

The ruling means the case will continue to move forward, with both sides gathering evidence to support their positions.

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