Rupert Murdoch’s Fox agrees settlement in Dominion defamation case

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox has agreed to pay $787.5mn to settle a landmark defamation case through which it was accused of broadcasting false accusations of US election fraud, a lawyer for voting machine maker Dominion mentioned.

A decide on Tuesday introduced the “events [had] resolved their case” following a last-minute deal reached on the cusp of a six-week trial in Delaware over claims aired on Fox Information within the wake of Donald Trump’s election loss in 2020. Opening arguments have been set to start within the afternoon.

Fox pays $787.5mn — virtually half of the $1.6bn in damages sought by Dominion, lawyer Justin Nelson mentioned in a press convention exterior the courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. A spokesperson for Fox didn’t instantly confirm the determine, which might characterize one of many greatest defamation awards in US historical past.

“The reality issues,” Nelson advised reporters. “Lies have penalties.” He added that the accusations aired by Fox had brought on “grievous hurt to Dominion and the nation” and that residents of the US “should share a dedication to info”.

Fox mentioned in an announcement: “We’re happy to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Programs,” and acknowledged that the court docket had beforehand discovered “sure claims about Dominion to be false”.

“This settlement displays Fox’s continued dedication to the best journalistic requirements. We’re hopeful that our resolution to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, as an alternative of the acrimony of a divisive trial, permits the nation to maneuver ahead from these points.”

John Poulos, chief govt of Dominion, mentioned Fox had “admitted to telling lies” about his firm, however declined to touch upon whether or not he had sought an apology from Rupert Murdoch as a part of the settlement.

Shares of Fox Corp fell 1 per cent in after-hours buying and selling in New York.

Fox Information, the conservative information organisation, and its proprietor Fox Corp had been sued by Dominion in 2021, over on-air statements accusing the producer of rigging its gadgets to award votes to president Joe Biden, of paying bribes to election officers, and of working for the late Venezuelan chief Hugo Chávez.

The decide had dominated in March that the 20 statements in query have been false and that the US structure’s first modification provided no free-speech safety to these intentionally broadcasting lies.

He had left it as much as the jury — picked from the closely Democratic New Fort county through which the court docket is located — to resolve whether or not Fox anchors had acted with “precise malice” in repeating the claims on air, and what damages Dominion suffered.

Regardless of makes an attempt by Fox’s attorneys to forestall his look, Murdoch, who’s 92, was set to be referred to as to testify in individual, as have been a number of Fox stars, together with Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

The media tycoon had acknowledged throughout testimony behind closed doorways that some Fox anchors had gone too far and “endorsed” claims of election fraud, versus merely repeating allegations made by others.

Proof gathered within the months previous the trial additionally supplied an unflattering glimpse into Fox’s newsgathering course of, revealing that a number of central figures didn’t imagine the election fraud allegations made on air however have been afraid to problem them for worry of shedding viewers to extra radical shops, corresponding to Newsmax and OAN.

A number of authorized specialists mentioned Fox would have confronted an “uphill battle” at trial, as its defence relied on proving that the likes of Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro — the presenters whose exhibits most prominently featured lots of the statements in query — didn’t know for sure that the allegations have been unfaithful on the time.

Nonetheless, many additionally questioned the calculations behind Dominion’s demand for $1.6bn, pointing to the truth that the corporate didn’t appear to have misplaced a lot enterprise because of the allegedly defamatory claims.

Whereas the settlement brings the lawsuit filed in Delaware Superior Courtroom to a detailed, it leaves Fox open to separate claims from shareholders accusing it of being in breach of fiduciary duties, one among which has already been submitted to the Courtroom of Chancery.

Dominion can be pursuing claims towards various people together with former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who made a number of allegations towards the corporate in November 2020.

Stephen Shackelford, the lawyer who was because of give opening statements for Dominion earlier than the settlement was reached, steered the corporate would now transfer forward with the opposite instances.

“Cash is accountability, and we received that at this time from Fox,” he mentioned, “however we’re not carried out but”.

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