In an unprecedented move, Fox News settled a defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems on Tuesday, agreeing to pay $787.5 million, concluding a two-year legal dispute that significantly damaged the conservative network’s credibility.
This settlement marks the largest defamation settlement involving a media company in US history and was announced mere hours after the jury was sworn in at the Delaware Superior Court.
Whispers of a settlement filled the courthouse when the proceedings unexpectedly halted for almost three hours without explanation. Judge Eric Davis eventually declared that the case had been resolved, crediting the 12-member jury for spurring the parties to reach a settlement.
He commended the lawyers on both sides before dismissing the jury and ending the so-called media “trial of the century” before it could truly begin.
Dominion attorney Justin Nelson underscored the settlement’s significance, asserting that it “symbolizes vindication and accountability.” He added, “For our democracy to continue for another 250 years and hopefully much longer, we must commit to facts… Today is a resounding endorsement of truth and democracy.”
In a statement, Fox News recognized the court’s rulings and admitted that certain allegations about Dominion were false. The $787.5 million payout is approximately half of the $1.6 billion initially demanded by Dominion but is almost 10 times the company’s 2018 valuation and about eight times its 2021 annual revenue.
Fox News Dodges Lengthy Trial
The settlement brings the high-profile case to an end, preventing it from advancing to trial. Consequently, influential Fox News executives and well-known on-air personalities will not be required to testify about their controversial 2020 election coverage, which included numerous false claims about voter fraud.
The witness list comprised Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, his CEO son Lachlan Murdoch, and renowned Fox hosts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
During the case, incriminating emails, texts, and deposition testimonies were made public, revealing that these individuals and many others at Fox privately questioned the vote-rigging allegations against Dominion.
By settling now, Fox sidestepped the potential for Dominion to further expose its dishonesty during a weeks-long trial.
The Settlement’s Broader Implications
Dominion CEO John Poulos referred to the settlement as historic due to Fox’s admission of spreading falsehoods. “Throughout this process, we have pursued accountability,” he said. “We believe the evidence unveiled during this case highlights the repercussions of spreading lies. Accurate reporting in the media is vital to our democracy.”
The lawsuit represented one of the most assertive attempts to hold Fox, or any other party, responsible for perpetuating the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen. This lie incited threats against election officials nationwide and ultimately contributed to the violent assault on the US Capitol on January 6th, which resulted in nine deaths.
Although the case was settled, Dominion had already uncovered a wealth of internal communications from Fox, demonstrating that top talent and hosts were aware that the wild claims about Dominion and a stolen election were baseless.
These extensive messages offered a rare glimpse into how some of America’s most influential hosts did not believe the allegations they were broadcasting to their viewers each night.