Fox News & Dominion Settle Out Of Court For $787.5 Million
Minutes before opening statements were set to begin in Dominion Voting System’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News Network (FNN), the two parties settled out of court. Fox News Network agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million on Tuesday.
The payment helps FNN avoid a heavily-watched court battle featuring tough questions for the media network’s lead executives and most prominent stars. The trial would have required Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch and hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity to testify. The negotiated terms will not force Fox to apologize on air for spreading false information around the 2020 election.
“Money is accountability,” Dominion’s lawyer, Stephen Shackelford, said outside the court after the settlement. “we got that today from Fox.”
The settlement shows that FNN thought a trial’s reputational damage was worth more than a lump sum payment and a subtle, implicit recognition of fault.
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“We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” FNN said in a statement. “This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”
Dominion’s lawyers teed up a bundle of difficult questions about journalistic integrity at the network. Armed with private texts sent between hosts and network executives – calling falsehoods around the 2020 election “insane” and “completely nuts” sent while spreading misinformation around the election on-air – Dominion’s lawyers exacted a legal argument that many thought could prove “actual malice.”
“Actual malice” protects the media’s free speech right until a network publishes defamatory information “made with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard of whether it was true or not.”
The $787.5 million price tag is the largest defamation payment in American history.
Tuesday’s settlement does not leave Fox off the hook for spreading election lies in 2020. The network faces a pending $2.7 billion civil trial against another voting tech company, Smartmatic. The network also faces a gender harassment lawsuit against former producer Abby Grossberg, who claimed the company “coerced” her into giving false testimony in the Dominion case.
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