A Delaware judge allowed Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News to proceed, striking down the conservative network’s claims while finding in favor partly for the aggrieved voting machine company.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled in favor of Dominion on one point: that public statements made by Fox employees about the voting machine company were completely false.
“The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that [it] is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” Davis wrote.
Various Fox News hosts endorsed the view that Dominion played a role in stealing the election, News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition released in the case.
Davis’ conclusion is a huge blow to Fox in the case, which is set to go to trial in April.
Fox attorneys had argued that the network was simply covering various sides of an evolving controversy — whether the election was stolen from Trump and, more specifically, whether Dominion had aligned with deceased Venezuelan premier Hugo Chavez as part of a Communist plot to defeat Trump.
The dispute partly comes down to what’s known as the neutral report privilege, which protects journalists engaged in good faith reporting about publicly made allegations. Davis found that Fox’s reporting was not protected.
“Even if the neutral report privilege did apply, the evidence does not support that FNN
conducted good-faith, disinterested reporting,” Davis wrote. “FNN’s failure to reveal extensive contradicting evidence from the public sphere and Dominion itself indicates its reporting was not disinterested.”
As part of a separate but related argument, that statement broadcast on Fox about Dominion’s supposed role in rigging the 2020 election were not intended as statements of fact, but, rather, opinion, Davis demurred.
“It is reasonably conceivable that viewers of the FNN show segments and tweets of FNN hosts would not view the Statements as merely opinions of the hosts, but either as actual assertions of fact, or implications that the hosts knew something that the viewers do not, i.e., a ‘mixed opinion,'” he wrote. “The Statements were capable of being proven true, and in fact the evidence that would prove the Statements was discussed many times (but never presented). Moreover, the context supports the position that the Statements were not pure
opinion where they were made by newscasters holding themselves out to be sources of accurate information.”
Davis’ ruling means that, if the case goes to trial absent a settlement agreement, a jury will have to consider whether Fox knew that the claims it propagated about Dominion were untrue when it made them. The ruling establishes that the claims themselves were false, removing that from the jury’s consideration.
Jurors will also be asked to decide what damages Dominion is entitled to receive. It has asked for $1.6 billion.
In a statement, Fox News said that the case continued to be about “First Amendment protections” for the press.
“FOX will continue to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press as we move into the next phase of these proceedings,” the statement reads.
Read the ruling here: