Rupert Murdoch said in a recent deposition that he “would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing” Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 presidential election, conspiracy theories that the Fox Corp. executive chairman at once called “bullsh*t and damaging.”

But he admitted that some Fox hosts “endorsed” those election fraud claims.

“Not Fox, no. Not Fox. But maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria, as commentators,” Murdoch said in the deposition, referring to Lou Dobbs, a former Fox News host, and Maria Bartiromo, a current one.

The revelations came in the latest public disclosures made in Dominion Voting Systemsdefamation lawsuit against Fox News and parent company Fox Corp. (read the filing here). Dominion contends that, in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, Fox hosts amplified claims that it was involved in rigging the results, even though many hosts and executives didn’t believe such a scenario.

Instead, Dominion argues, the hosts continued to feature guests such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, attorneys working for Trump’s campaign and the leading adherents to the election fraud claims.

In his deposition, according to the Dominion filing, Murdoch said that he could have told Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott or the Fox News hosts to stop putting Giuliani and other guests on the air. “I could have. But I didn’t,” he said.

Fox, meanwhile, contends that Dominion is engaged in an effort to “publicly smear” the media outlet for merely covering allegations made by a sitting president of the United States. (Read its filing here.)

A Dominion filing earlier this month was chock-full of text messages and emails from Fox News personalities and executives, showing that they saw the election fraud claims as dubious but worried that calling them out would jeopardize their audience to conservative outlets like Newsmax.

“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 a half-billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims,” Fox said in a statement.

Fox contends that Dominion is taking an “extreme, unsupported view” of defamation law in arguing that Fox should be liable. They argued that under that interpretation, all media could be liable for reporting newsworthy allegations that reporters and editors thought were bogus. “The Washington Post could be on the hook for reporting President Trump’s allegation that President Obama was born in Kenya, since several of its editors understood that the claim was bogus,” the network’s attorneys wrote.

They wrote that if “Dominion’s view of the law were correct, then it would have a defamation claim against virtually every news outlet in the country, as everyone covered what the President and his lawyers and allies were alleging in the wake of the 2020 election, even though many made no secret of the fact that they doubted their claims.”

The network also said that Dominion, with its blizzard of emails and text messages included in its filing, “cherry picks any soundbite it can from any corner of the Fox organization” and that the revelations are irrelevant to the legal issues.

Fox’s attorneys wrote that “no amount of irrelevant evidence can change the reality that Dominion has virtually no evidence (let alone clear and convincing evidence) that any person actually responsible for the allegedly defamatory statements (the hosts themselves and, in certain cases, the producers on their shows) knew that any of the challenged statements were false or harbored serious doubts about their truth at the time the statements were published.”

The case is scheduled to go to trial in April in Delaware Superior Court. Both sides in the case are asking the judge, Eric M. Davis, for a summary judgment ruling in their favor. That would be highly unusual at this stage, though.

In its latest filing, Dominion contends that the words of Murdoch and other top executives are relevant to the case because they were in the “chain of command” and “this is not about ‘collective knowledge. The evidence confirms that executives in the chain of commend … knew Fox was broadcasting these known lies, had the power to stop it, but chose to let it continue. That was wrong, and for that, [Fox News] and [Fox Corp.] are both liable.”

Dominion’s latest filing focuses extensively on Murdoch’s role.

In the aftermath of the election, Murdoch himself told Col Allan of the New York Post that half of what Trump was saying was “bullsh*t and damaging,” according to Dominion’s filing.

In his deposition, Murdoch was queried by Dominion’s attorneys on whether Fox “did not than simply host these guests and give them a platform.”

Asked whether Jeanine Pirro, another Fox host, also endorsed the fraud claims, Murdoch replied, “I think so.”

Dominion’s attorney then asked, “Fox Business host Lou Dobbs?”

“Oh, a lot.”

“Fox host Sean Hannity?”

“A bit,” Murdoch said.

Dominion pointed to another deposition — that of Fox Corp. chief legal and policy officer Viet Dinh — who was asked whether Fox News executives had an obligation to act if they knew that hosts were broadcasting false allegations. “If they are within the chain of command and if they — and if they come to that knowledge, yes,” Dinh said, according to the filing.

In its filing, Dominion tries to show that Murdoch and his son, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, took an active role in the Fox News coverage and its aftermath. The company claims that during the campaign, the elder Murdoch provided Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, “with confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy.”

Yet on Election Night, when Fox News was the first network to call Arizona for Joe Biden, Murdoch would not help Trump’s team, who were upset over the projection. It was the first sign that Trump would lose the election.

Dominion’s filing states: “As Rupert described it: ‘My friend Jared Kushner called me saying, ‘This is terrible,’”‘ and I could hear Trump’s voice in the background shouting.’ But Rupert refused to budge. ‘And I said, ‘Well, the numbers are the numbers.’ By this point, Rupert knew that no fraud had occurred.”

In his deposition, he said that he seriously doubted the election fraud claims and said of the Arizona call, “I mean, we thought everything was on the up and up. I think that was shown when we announced Arizona.”

In the days later, executives were “well aware” of viewer backlash to the call. After Steve Bannon appeared on Bartiromo’s show, two days after the election, the elder Murdoch was concerned about making the false claims of election fraud. That same night, after Hannity told viewers that “it will be impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results, that’s a fact,” Dinh commented to Lachlan Murdoch, Scott and corporate communications head Irena Briganti: “Let’s continue to buckle up for next 24 hours. Hannity is getting awfully close to the line with his commentary and guests tonight.”

On November 6, Murdoch emailed Scott and discussed what the hosts should be saying about Trump’s claims that he won the election. “Everything seems to be moving to Biden, and if Trump becomes a sore loser we should watch Sean especially and others don’t sound the same. Not there yet but a danger,” he wrote. “Agree on all,” Scott responded, according to Dominion’s filing.

Murdoch, however, worried about antagonizing Trump, who already was urging viewers to turn to Newsmax and One America News Network. According to Dominion’s filing, Murdoch said in his deposition, “He had a very large following, and they were probably mostly viewers of Fox, so it would have been stupid.” He also said that the network was “trying to straddle the line between spewing conspiracy theories on one hand, yet calling out the fact that they are actually false on the other.”

Fox News hosts continued to amplify the election claims in the weeks ahead, booking Giuliani and Powell and other guests, Dominion noted.

“We were treating it as news that the president and his lawyers were saying this. We were commenting on it to say it was nonsense, or Tucker [Carlson] was,” Murdoch said in the deposition, according to Dominion’s filing.

Paul Ryan, the former House Speaker who was by then a Fox Corp. board member, also was concerned over the Fox News coverage. In a text to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, he wrote that Fox should engage in a “solid pushback (including editorial) of [Trump’s] baseless calls for overturning electors.” After getting the text, Murdoch wrote to his son, “Call me later re Trump and Paul. Trump on Saturday sounded really crazy.”

“Fox was trying to navigate this dynamic between a core group of Trump loyalists who were ignoring the truth and the truth itself,” Ryan said, according to the filing.

On January 5, the day before the attack on the Capitol, Murdoch discussed with Scott whether “Hannity, Carlson, and [Laura] Ingraham should say some version of ‘The election is over and Joe Biden won,’” according to Dominion. “Murdoch hoped those words ‘would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen.’”

As it turned out, according to the Dominion filing, Scott told Murdoch that “privately they are all there” but “we need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers.” “So nobody made a statement,” Dominion’s attorneys note.

After the January 6th attacks, Fox Corp. board members including Ryan and Anne Dias urged the Murdochs to alter course away from Trump. Dias told them that it was “an existential moment for the nation and for Fox News as a brand.” On January 12, according to the filing, Ryan had a discussion with the Murdochs over an article called “The Alternate Reality Machine,” about how “the right-wing media ecosystem created an alternative reality for those who had come to rely on its outlets for news” and were “enablers” of January 6.

In an email, Ryan wrote that “some high percentage of Americans” thought the election was stolen “because they got a diet of information telling them the election was stolen from what they believe were credible sources.”

Rupert Murdoch responded, “Thanks Paul. Wake-up call for Hannity, who has been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers.”

Yet Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who also spread election fraud claims, was a guest on Carlson’s primetime show on January 26, 2021. According to Dominion, “Murdoch admitted it was ‘wrong’” for Carlson to host Lindell without contesting his claims about the company.

Lindell also is a ubiquitous Fox sponsor. The previous month, Lindell accused Fox of being “in on” stealing the election from Trump. According to the Dominion filing, Scott then sent a personal note and gift to Lindell, and she also suggested that show book him because he would “get ratings.”

In his deposition, Murdoch, apparently referring to Lindell’s ads, said: “The man is on every night. Pays us a lot of money. … At first you think it’s comic, and then you get bored and irritated.”

Dominion’s attorneys wrote, “Rupert confirmed that he could tell [Fox News] to stop running Lindell’s advertisements, ‘But I’m not about to.’ And when asked why Fox continues to give a platform to Lindell — who continues to this day to spout lies about Dominion — Murdoch agreed that ‘it is not red or blue, it is green.’”

Dominion also accused Fox of taking “unfounded pot shots” at its $1.6 billion damages claim. “The damages to Dominion are real and vast, and it will be up to the jury to ultimately decide,” the filing states.


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