Dominion Voting systems offered an extensive sneak peek at its sweeping defamation case against Fox News in a Thursday court filing, bringing dozens of examples of how top network executives and hosts – from Rupert Murdoch to Tucker Carlson – were privately appalled as the network continued to book guests presenting unsupported election-fraud theories following the 2020 election.
The 179-page document, filed Thursday in the Superior Court of Delaware, requests “summary judgment” – or a judge’s declaration of instant victory – in Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox. While the odds of that happening are statistically zero, the filing, including dozens of texts and emails between Fox’s top brass and talent, is the most comprehensive view into Dominion’s case against Fox since it filed suit in November 2021.
Dominion says Fox defamed it by allowing guests like attorney Sidney Powell and Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani to repeatedly appear in the weeks after the November 2020 election, suggesting that Dominion’s software was compromised to digitally tilt the election to Biden.
A necessary pillar of any defamation case is showing “actual malice” – meaning the plaintiff must be proven to have known it was spreading harmful untruths. Dominion says the emails, text messages and other communication it collected shows that behind the scenes, Fox’s top-ranking shot-callers were horrified by the unfounded claims appearing nightly on their network – and were deeply worried that they would cause trouble down the road.
The notion that Fox’s own hosts and top brass were not on board with the election-fraud narrative has been reported before. But details about the degree to which they disagreed – and were unanimously concerned about the potential for damage to their network – were new to Thursday’s filing.
“Sidney Powell is lying,” Carlson texted to his producer Alex Pfeiffer on Nov. 16, less than two weeks after the election.
“Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry but she is,” Laura Ingraham texted to Carlson and Sean Hannity the day before.
“That whole narrative that Sidney was pushing,” Sean Hannity texted later that month, “I did not believe it for one second.”
And after Murdoch watched Giuliani and Powell on Nov. 19, he told Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott: “Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear.” Scott concurred: “Even Pirro agrees,” meaning pro-Trump firebrand Jeannie Pirro.
Dominion also says that it provided 3,600 communications to Fox – including a dozen fact-check emails that were widely circulated in the company – while Fox admitted that Powell and Giuliani provided no evidence for their fraud claims.
In all, Dominion says Fox aired at least 20 defamatory statements, including “four categories of lies” that were broadcast across six different shows – and that “numerous” executives were involved.
Dominion adds that it doesn’t matter that the statements came from guests: “It is legally irrelevant that many – but not all – of the accused statements relate to false charges made by a guest and not a host. Fox is deemed the ‘publisher’ of every statement those guests aired against Dominion … one who republishes a libel is subject to liability just as if he had published it originally, even though he attributes the libelous statement to the original publisher, and even though he expressly disavows the truth of the statement.”
Carlson’s ire toward the election fraud claims were, in particular, presented in great detail: “We worked really hard to build what we have. Those fuckers are destroying our credibility. It enrages me,” he wrote Pfeiffer. He later noted that “At this point we’re getting hurt no matter what,” and “What [Trump]’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
But on the air, Carlson kept the door open on Nov. 19 after a Giuliani/Powell press conference, saying that what “Powell was describing would amount to the single greatest crime in American history,” but “she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of requests. … Maybe Sidney Powell will come forward soon with details on exactly how this happened, and precisely who did it … we are certainly hopeful that she will.”
In its defense, Fox has filed its own motion for summary judgment, saying Dominion is cherrypicking quotes to support a broadened view of defamation law, calling it an “assault on the First Amendment.”
“There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners,” Fox said in a statement, “but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan.”