Fox lawsuit docs show Murdoch acknowledged several hosts backed Trump’s fraud claims

Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire conservative media mogul who owns Fox News Channel, acknowledged that top hosts at his network endorsed former President Trump’s false claims of a fraudulent election in 2020, court documents filed on Monday show.

Lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems, which is suing Murdoch and Fox Corp. for defamation and seeking $1.6 billion in damages, pressed Murdoch directly as they deposed him about whether some of the network’s widely watched opinion hosts endorsed Trump’s unproved claims.

“In fact, you are now aware that Fox endorsed at times this false notion of a stolen election?” one of Dominion’s lawyers asked Murdoch during his deposition, the court filing shows.

“Not Fox, No. Not Fox. But maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria, as commentators,” Murdoch replied.

“Some of our commentators were endorsing it,” the media tycoon added, when pressed again if the hosts endorsed Trump’s claims of a fraudulent election. “Yes. They endorsed.”

The filing made Monday by Dominion is the latest chapter in a blockbuster lawsuit, in which the voting systems company argues that top brass at Fox, including its top hosts and executives, defamed Dominion by airing false claims peddled by Trump and his associates in the weeks following the 2020 election.

Fox has so far unsuccessfully moved to have the case dismissed on First Amendment grounds, and in a filing of its own on Monday argued it was simply airing newsworthy comments made by the president and his top associates. By Dominion’s standard for defamation, Fox’s lawyers argued in their filing, the company could sue virtually every media company in the country for reporting on Trump’s claims.

“Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims,” the network said in a statement on Monday evening.

“Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear FOX for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment,” the statement continued.

Last week, Dominion made a separate court filing containing pages of text messages, emails and testimony that outlined how top Fox executives and hosts cast doubt on Trump’s claims, and worrying about how fact-checking his statements on the air might be received by the conservative media outlet’s audience.

Among them were top host Tucker Carlson, who Dominion alleged confronted pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, saying, “You keep telling our viewers that millions of votes were changed by the software. I hope you will prove that very soon. You’ve convinced them that Trump will win. If you don’t have conclusive evidence of fraud at that scale, it’s a cruel and reckless thing to keep saying.”

Dominion’s filing also includes excerpts from its deposition of former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, who sits on the board of Fox Corp. and was advising the Murdochs in the post-election period.

Ryan told Dominion’s lawyers that he knew that “these conspiracy theories were baseless” and that Fox “should labor to dispel conspiracy theories if and when they pop up,” according to the filing.

Ryan said he believed “there ought to be a listing of all the allegations and then all the evidence or the validation or invalidation of those [election fraud] allegations just for the viewers’ sake,” and wrote to the Murdoch after the election saying “that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories.”

On Jan. 5, 2021, a day before the deadly attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, Dominion alleges Murdoch wrote to Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, saying, “It’s been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like ‘the election is over and Joe Biden won,’” and that such a move “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen.”

A jury trial in the case is expected to begin in April.

Updated at 6:23 p.m.

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