Fox News CEO Lamented That Fact-Checking Election Lies Was ‘Bad for Business’

·4 min read
Alexi Rosenfeld
Alexi Rosenfeld

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott was deeply concerned that her network’s reporters fact-checking baseless election fraud claims about the 2020 election was “bad for business” and had to “stop now.”

A slide presentation used by Dominion Voting Systems lawyers in a Tuesday hearing of the firm’s defamation case against Fox News included several emails from Scott that were previously redacted in earlier filings. These messages further revealed how the network chief was extremely sensitive about Fox’s sinking ratings after the channel’s early Arizona election call for President Joe Biden.

Dominion alleged that the network knowingly aired “rigged” election lies in an attempt to win back disgruntled MAGA viewers that abandoned Fox for right-wing competitors who were willing to peddle former President Donald Trump’s outlandish fraud claims.

In a Nov. 11, 2020 email exchange with Fox’s top flack Irena Briganti, Scott took issue with Fox News anchors Sandra Smith and Neil Cavuto, who were both under fire from far-right media for pushing back on Team Trump’s unproven claims of widespread voter fraud.

Jaw-Dropping Filings Reveal Civil War Inside Fox News

“Our talent must stop disrespecting the audience,” Scott demanded. “What she did and then what Neil did was worse. Neil doesn’t think the American audience is smart [enough] to make a decision for themselves in watching a press conference? Terrible. If they don’t get it they don’t deserve the scale of our platform to diminish our viewers.”

Two days prior, Cavuto pulled out of a press briefing by then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany after she began baselessly accusing the Democrats of stealing the election. That same day, raw footage of Smith lecturing her co-host Trace Gallagher for indulging a pro-Trump lawyer’s wild election denialism was leaked online.

In a different email exchange with Briganti and Fox News President Jay Wallace on Nov. 19, Scott seemed infuriated by White House correspondent Kristin Fisher’s immediate fact-check of an unhinged press conference held by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

“I’m getting major incoming on her editorializing at the top of Dana’s now and her dismissive tone and indifference to the audience,” Scott declared. “We need to manage this. I saw she just did a hit in Cavuto. I hope she didn’t double down I can’t keep defending these reporters who don’t understand our viewers and how to handle stories.”

The Fox News boss then bemoaned how the election had impacted the network’s bottom line. “The audience feels we crapped on [them] and we have damaged their trust and belief in us. We lost 25k subs from FOX NATION. We can fix this but we can’t smirk at our viewers any longer,” Scott added.

Fox News Journalists Sound Off on ‘Soul-Crushing’ Dominion Filings

Fisher, who left Fox News for CNN in 2021, testified that she felt “punished” by her superiors over her reporting on Giuliani’s presser, alleging she was denied hosting opportunities and reporting assignments.

“This is about the tone and delivery of the correspondent, it has nothing to do with fact checking,” a Fox News spokesperson said about the Nov. 19 email exchange.

Finally, in a Dec. 2 email to Meade Cooper, the executive VP of primetime programming, Scott made clear that anchor Eric Shawn’s habit of debunking false claims from Trump—and sometimes his own colleagues—had gone too far.

“I’m going to address this with you and Jay and [Managing Editor of News Tom] Lowell tomorrow,” she wrote. “This is bad business and there clearly is a lack of understanding what is happening in these shows.”

Scott concluded: “The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material. Bad for business.”

Addressing Scott’s remarks, a Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Beast that this was “not about fact checking - the issue at hand is one host calling out another.”

Fox News reacted to the latest public release in the Dominion lawsuit with the following statement: “These documents once again demonstrate Dominion’s continued reliance on cherry-picked quotes without context to generate headlines in order to distract from the facts of this case. The foundational right to a free press is at stake and we will continue to fiercely advocate for the First Amendment in protecting the role of news organizations to cover the news.”

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