Prior to initiating the much-anticipated defamation case, Fox News suggested a last-minute $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems to save face as much as possible, and it worked.
The CEO of Dominion, John Poulos, and his legal team cheesing after the settlement.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
The Dominion team previously sued them for $1.6 billion but accepted the offer with cheek-to-cheek grins on their faces.
By forgoing the trial, the network’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, and star hosts such as Tucker Carlson were spared from public humiliation by not being required to the witness stand to potentially reveal embarrassing details about the newsroom operations.
In what appears to be the largest known media defamation settlement in US history, the two sides clasped hands in agreement.
The Lofty Settlement Demonstrates The Severity of The Crimes
A lawsuit was filed by Dominion, who manufactures electronic voting machines, against Fox News for defamation, alleging that the network purposely spread untruthful statements regarding Dominion's involvement in rigging the 2020 presidential election in Joe Biden's favor.
The verdict from the judge in the case had already been established - Fox News's claims about Dominion's role in the 2020 election were not true.
However, for defamation to be legally recognized in the US, Dominion had to demonstrate that Fox News acted with malicious intent or showed a disregard for the accuracy of their statements.
Will Fox News Be Worse Off After This?
A substantial check to write, for Fox, is not financially debilitating (equivalent to nearly 20% of its cash on hand).
But more importantly, by settling, the company is able to avoid a trial.
In addition, according to the Wall Street Journal, Fox is not obligated to make an on-air apology as part of the settlement.
That’s a win-win for both parties.
Considering that Dominion only produces less than $100 million per year in sales per Axios' Dan Primack, the $787.5 million speaks for itself when it comes to the company.
The lawyers are probably gearing up for a two-year sabbatical at this point– deservedly so.
Of course, Murdoch & friends expect this settlement will blow over as they are grateful to have narrowly escaped trial.
What Does This Case Mean For Journalists?
Political commentators on both sides of the aisle are concerned this lawsuit and record-breaking settlement sets a dangerous precedent for dissenting journalists.
Writers such as Debra Saunders from RealClear Politics claim that this case is “bad for journalism”.
Some, like Saunders, claim that the case may discourage public opposition to mainstream narratives concerning presidential elections and more.
However, these concerns are a bit misguided by my estimation for three main reasons:
Fox News is the mainstream– regularly doubling or tripling CNN & MSNBC viewership.
They knowingly lied— texts expose Murdoch, Ingraham, and Carlson.
Fox really did defame Dominion.
Therefore, honest journalism is not in danger of widespread defamation claims for reasons of Dominion v. Fox, but for different reasons.
The First Amendment is under attack from the left & the right (maybe the former more than the latter) but this case has nothing to do with that.
Despite being in a precarious situation, Fox News is still in the midst of a $2.7 billion defamation case that was launched against them by Smartmatic, a different election tech firm.
This lawsuit is based on accusations similar to those levied by Dominion, so get your popcorn ready to see how the next one plays out.