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Dominion's law suit. BDF?

Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion. Are they going to settle for way less? Hmmmm....daaaaa.


Fox News has a market cap of about $17 billion. The payout won't materially impact much. Besides, the real loser of the last presidential campaign has been CNN. Since Trump left office, their ratings are down over 50%. They need Donald back in the news. He's trying to help.


Note: Below is WSJs and NY Times coverage of this crap.


Fox News Defamation Trial Delayed Amid Network’s Push to Settle Dispute

Dominion Voting Systems had been seeking $1.6 billion in damages for false election-fraud broadcasts


By Erin Mulvaney, Isabella Simonetti and Joe Flint, WSJ

Updated April 17, 2023 12:02 am ET


A Delaware judge delayed the start of the eagerly anticipated trial on a voting-machine company’s defamation claims against Fox News, an announcement that came as the network is looking for a possible way to settle the case.


Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said late Sunday that he was delaying the start of the trial by one day, moving it from Monday to Tuesday. He didn’t explain the reasons for the move.


Fox has made a late push to settle the dispute with Dominion Voting Systems out of court, people familiar with the situation said Sunday.


Dominion has been seeking $1.6 billion in damages but appears to have softened its claims. An April 14 email from Dominion to Fox, attached to a new Fox legal filing on Sunday, indicated that Dominion wouldn’t present a jury with claims for alleged lost profits. In its original 2021 lawsuit, Dominion sought lost-profits damages of not less than $600 million.


Dominion had no immediate comment on the Fox filing. Both sides declined to comment on the judge’s delay.


If the case isn’t resolved out of court, a jury will decide a once in a generation defamation case that could have broad ramifications for the network and test the contours of modern media law. The proceedings are scheduled to last about six weeks.


Dominion has accused Fox News, a unit of Fox Corp., FOX -1.35%decrease; red down pointing triangle of airing false claims by hosts and guests that Dominion helped rig the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election in favor of Joe Biden. It is seeking damages for alleged financial harm to the company, arguing that Fox News and Fox Business egregiously departed from journalistic norms by broadcasting stolen-election segments they knew or should have known were false.


Fox has sought to position its actions and election coverage as within the mainstream: reporting on allegations from then-President Donald Trump and his associates that were newsworthy. But it has been on the losing end of a series of pretrial rulings in recent months.


The release of internal Fox communications during the litigation shows that network executives and hosts were skeptical of election-fraud claims, but also concerned about alienating viewers who supported Mr. Trump.


“In some ways, it’s just another piece of litigation for a large dollar amount, but it’s also unlike any case you’ve seen before, weighing the future of Fox News, what’s permissible for what a reporter can trust, and the future of faith in the media,” said Victoria Baranetsky, general counsel at the Center for Investigative Reporting. “In those ways, the stakes are high.”


Media organizations enjoy robust protections under the First Amendment, making defamation cases difficult for plaintiffs to win. Most lawsuits don’t even make it to trial, prompting some to argue that modern precedent makes it too difficult for businesses or individuals to vindicate their reputations in court.


Legal observers say the Dominion case could prove to be a notable counterexample. The company has come to the eve of trial riding momentum: Judge Davis has already concluded that Fox News and Fox Business did in fact broadcast false claims about Dominion, voiced by both network hosts and Trump associates, including Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who appeared as guests.


The judge has also said Fox had a credibility problem and questioned whether the company failed to provide required disclosures and information in the litigation. Fox denies wrongdoing.


If the trial moves forward, it will be up to a jury to decide whether Fox acted with “actual malice” in broadcasting false claims, a standard that turns on whether Dominion can prove that Fox knowingly published false information or proceeded with a reckless disregard for the truth.


Dominion says it has enough evidence to meet this bar. It says text and email communications from Fox executives and hosts—in some instances mocking claims made on air by guests or openly worrying about losing viewers to other networks embracing a harder line—show they knew the information wasn’t true but continued to air the false claims.


Not long after the election, Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson wrote to his producer that “Sidney Powell is lying” about having evidence of election fraud, according to a court filing. He wrote a similar message to fellow anchor Laura Ingraham. “It’s unbelievably offensive to me. Our viewers are good people and they believe it,” Mr. Carlson wrote.


Fox Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch, who is expected to be called to testify, acknowledged in a deposition that some Fox hosts and commentators endorsed the false election-fraud narrative but said the company itself didn’t. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight,” Mr. Murdoch said.


Other high-profile witnesses who could be called to testify at the trial include Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Mr. Carlson.


Fox Corp., which is also a defendant in this case, shares common ownership with News Corp NWSA -1.25%decrease; red down pointing triangle, parent of The Wall Street Journal’s publisher, Dow Jones & Co.


A Fox spokeswoman said in a statement that Dominion had pushed “irrelevant and misleading information to generate headlines,” and called the lawsuit “a political crusade in search of a financial windfall, but the real cost would be cherished First Amendment rights.”


In a statement, Dominion said: “The First Amendment does not shield broadcasters that knowingly or recklessly spread lies.” The company says it was defamed by hosts or their guests on 17 programs that ran on Fox News and Fox Business between Nov. 8, 2020, and Jan. 26, 2021, as well as three tweets by then-host Lou Dobbs.


Fox News and Fox Business are the largest profit engines of Fox Corp., accounting for about 70% of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to Wells Fargo.


Longtime defamation attorney Lee Levine said the jury’s decision ultimately won’t pose an existential threat to Fox Corp. “Frankly, I don’t think it will change much about the way Fox does business,” Mr. Levine said.


Wall Street analysts said that while Fox could absorb a substantial financial penalty, that might limit its flexibility to engage in share buybacks. “They can afford it, but of course there’s other things that they’d rather do with that cash,” said Joseph Bonner, a senior analyst at Argus Research.


Fox had just over $4 billion in cash when it last reported quarterly earnings back in February. At the time, it authorized a new $3 billion stock-buyback plan, bringing its total authorized repurchases to $7 billion.


Doug Arthur, an analyst at Huber Research, said it was highly unlikely that Fox would be asked to pay the full $1.6 billion in damages in the event of a loss.


Dominion argued in court documents that the $1.6 billion request was to compensate for damage to its reputation that led to lost profits and diminished business value.


Lawyers for Fox have argued that Dominion’s claims for damages are unreasonable and that its business hasn’t been significantly harmed by the election-fraud allegations, saying the company has retained many of its customers.


Fox also faces a $2.7 billion defamation suit from Smartmatic USA Corp., another voting-machine company, over similar claims, and recently settled a defamation lawsuit brought by a Venezuelan businessman who alleged that he was falsely accused of having helped rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election.


Six years ago, a closely watched defamation case against ABC News made it to trial but was settled before jurors had a chance to weigh in. Network parent Walt Disney Co. paid an undisclosed amount to resolve defamation claims by Beef Products Inc. over a 2012 series of stories the network aired about its processed-meat product, which critics had called “pink slime.”


A Disney financial disclosure suggested the company paid at least $177 million to end the case.


Last year, a federal judge rejected Sarah Palin’s allegations that she was defamed by a New York Times editorial, ruling that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate’s claims presented at trial were insufficient to prove her case. Jurors in the case also concluded that the Times didn’t defame Ms. Palin.


Also last year, two separate juries rendered defamation judgments that totaled more than a $1 billion against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who claimed on his InfoWars platform that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax.


None of these cases offers a direct parallel to the Fox litigation, media-law specialists said.


“This is an especially unique jury case because of the scope and scale,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor at the University of Utah. There are no comparable examples of jury trials about “an allegation from a plaintiff that there was a conscious corporate decision to repeatedly tell a defamatory lie,” she said.


Write to Erin Mulvaney at erin.mulvaney@wsj.com, Isabella Simonetti at isabella.simonetti@wsj.com and Joe Flint at Joe.Flint@wsj.com


A lawsuit against Fox News could help decide the boundaries of press freedom.

By German Lopez, NY Times


Starting tomorrow, Fox News is scheduled to be on trial. Dominion Voting Systems, which makes voting machines, is suing the cable news network for $1.6 billion. Dominion claims that Fox spread a false conspiracy theory that its machines were rigged against Donald Trump in the 2020 election.


The trial had been set to start today, but the judge overseeing the case announced a one-day delay last night. Fox may be seeking to settle the case before a trial can begin, The Wall Street Journal reported.


We have already seen some of the evidence for Dominion’s side. Texts and emails uncovered through the lawsuit show that several of Fox’s executives, hosts and producers privately doubted the claims against Dominion, which were promoted by Trump, but amplified them on the air anyway.


Even with this evidence, Dominion may not have an easy time winning the case because of legal protections for media companies. Those protections were established by a 1964 Supreme Court ruling, New York Times v. Sullivan, based on the First Amendment’s safeguards for freedom of speech and the press. The ruling requires that defamation lawsuits by public figures against media companies prove “actual malice,” meaning that journalists must have known an allegation was false but broadcast it anyway or have acted so recklessly that they overlooked the facts.


“It is an incredibly high bar to prove,” said my colleague Katie Robertson, who is covering the lawsuit.


The case will test whether Fox’s brand of journalism — which includes a long record of spreading falsehoods (such as about where Barack Obama was born) — is legally vulnerable. Today’s newsletter will look at both sides of the case and its broader implications.


What is Dominion’s argument?

There is no doubt that Trump’s allegations against Dominion were false. The judge overseeing the case, Eric Davis of the Delaware Superior Court, has already ruled that Dominion won’t have to prove that the claims were wrong during the trial. Its task will be proving actual malice, as well as proving financial damage because of the coverage.


To do that, Dominion will point to a trove of texts, emails and other documents showing that Fox News’s leaders and hosts doubted the claims against Dominion but aired them anyway.


Referring to claims that Dominion’s software rigged the election, Tucker Carlson texted his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, that the idea was “absurd.” He also texted that Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s lawyers, was “lying.” Yet Carlson later argued on his show, “This is a real issue no matter who raises it or who tries to dismiss it out of hand as a conspiracy theory.”


Why did Carlson do this? It seems the answer has to do with his audience. Carlson initially cast doubt on Powell’s claims on air, saying, “She never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one.” His audience revolted, criticizing him for questioning a Trump ally. Carlson then walked back his public skepticism on air.


It’s a recurring theme in the texts and emails. Fox’s leaders and hosts expressed doubt about the conspiracy theory in private, but they also raised concerns about “respecting our audience.” To avoid losing viewers to competitors like Newsmax, Fox hosts and producers seemingly chose to broadcast and support the claims by Trump and his allies.


What is Fox News’s argument?

Fox News previously argued that even though it knew the claims against Dominion were false, it had to cover them anyway because they were newsworthy. But Judge Davis has ruled that Fox won’t be able to make that argument in the trial. “Just because someone is newsworthy,” he said, referring to Trump and his lawyers, “doesn’t mean you can defame someone.”


Without that argument, Fox has focused on others. The network argues that Dominion still needs to prove that Fox’s hosts — who ultimately decide what to air — knew the claims were false and broadcast them anyway. And Fox claims that at least some of the hosts genuinely believed the allegations and therefore were not intentionally defaming anyone.


Mostly, though, Fox is relying on Dominion failing to clear the high legal standard established by New York Times v. Sullivan. Dominion, not Fox, has the burden of proof.


Legal experts have said that Dominion’s case is stronger than most defamation lawsuits but that the company still may not win. “Proving this in a legal sense is more complicated than proving it in the court of public opinion,” said my colleague Jim Rutenberg, who wrote a Times Magazine article about the case.


What are the implications?

Fox News argues that if it loses, the case will do irreparable damage to press freedoms, opening all news outlets to lawsuits. “A free-flowing, robust American discourse depends on First Amendment protections for the press’ news gathering and reporting,” a network spokesperson said in a statement.


Some legal experts argue the opposite, saying that a loss for Fox could bolster protections for the press. Fox’s actions in covering the 2020 election were so egregious, the argument goes, that any legal standard that protected them would be no standard at all: For First Amendment protections to endure, news organizations need to be held accountable for knowingly spreading false and damaging information.


Sign up for our newsletter recapping the latest Fox-Dominion trial updates.

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