Dominion’s nearly 200-page archive not only presents a story of rank hypocrisy, but weaves a larger narrative about what fueled the disinformation campaign, documenting panic within the ranks of the network after discontent from conservatives. for his early (and accurate) call from Arizona to Joe Biden resulted in a ratings boom for his less scrupulous competitor, Newsmax, when an offended Donald Trump lashed out at Fox.
“He could easily destroy us if we mess up,” primetime host Tucker Carlson texted his producer just two days after the election, one of dozens of candid admissions aired on Dominion.
And so, fears of lost viewers and lost profits led Fox’s most powerful figures to accept unsubstantiated claims of conspiracy and fraud, and in some cases sidelined news reporters who took basic action. to verify claims made by people like pro-Trump. attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani on the network’s airwaves.
In a series of text messages, Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham criticized Powell and Giuliani for selling conspiracy articles without evidence. “Sidney Powell is lying. Damn bitch,” Carlson wrote to Ingraham on November 18. “Sidney is completely crazy. No one will work with her. Same with Rudy,» Ingraham replied.
Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch called the idea that the election was stolen «really crazy stuff.» Shortly after the election, his top executives circulated a New York Post article urging Trump to «stop the ‘stolen election’ rhetoric» and «get Rudy Giuliani off TV.» They also openly worried that Hannity, Ingraham and Carlson would embrace conspiracy theories on their shows.
The emails and text messages in the filing suggest that Fox’s top executives and stars were less concerned with the accuracy of the facts than with plummeting ratings after viewers who believed Mr. Trump began looking for different channels to back up his biases.
While a Fox executive called Newsmax’s rising ratings «troubling» and said the channel trafficked in an «alternate universe», he also argued that the trend «cannot be ignored». Another said the message had been sent internally that the network was now on a «war footing.»
According to the filing, Fox, still in hot water with Trump supporters for calling Arizona for Biden, took a quick turn to protect its brand, targeting network journalists who reported the truth about the election:
- On November 9, 2020, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was interrupted by host Neil Cavuto when she made unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election. “Unless I have more details to back that up, I can’t keep putting this on my face,” Cavuto said on air. For this, Fox Corp. senior vice president (and former Trump White House press aide) Raj Shah called Cavuto a “brand threat” in a message to corporate top brass.
- Hannity and Carlson tried to get Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich fired for fact-checking a Trump tweet about Dominion and pointing out there was no evidence of vote destruction. “Please get her fired from her. Seriously… what the hell?” Carlson texted Ingraham and Hannity on November 12, 2020. “You are doing a significant disservice to the company. The stock price has gone down. It’s not a joke.» Hannity lashed out at top executives, including one who panicked and wrote that Heinrich «has a lot of guts to do this and if this gets caught, viewers will be even more upset» with Fox. (CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported last night that Heinrich was «shocked» by this revelation.)
- On November 19, 2020, after Fox broadcast the now infamous Giuliani and Powell press conference about Dominion, then-White House correspondent Kristen Fisher got in trouble for verifying her false claims. According to the filing, “Fisher received a call from her boss, Bryan Boughton., immediately after, in which he emphasized that the higher-ups at Fox News weren’t happy about that either, and that Fisher needed to do a better job, this is a quote, respecting our audience.»
In one of the strangest parts, the filing reveals that Powell’s Domain voting conspiracy stemmed in part from an email Powell received from a whistleblower who claimed former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was secretly murdered during a human hunting expedition, and who claimed to be «internally decapitated» («The wind tells me I’m a ghost, but I don’t believe it,» the whistleblower wrote in the email).
Fox host Maria Bartiromo, who agreed to have Powell on her show after reading this email, never told viewers where Powell’s claim came from. As Fox’s then-Managing Editor in Washington, Bill Sammon, said of the network’s coverage at the time: «It’s remarkable how low ratings make good journalists do bad things.»
It all amounts to what the Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple calls «The most penetrating look into the internal goings-on of Fox News in its quarter-century of history.» But will Dominion win the lawsuit, which is seeking $1.6 billion from a company the NYT says has about $4 billion in cash?
Defamation cases have a high bar, and Dominion will have to prove «actual malice»: that the network spread information it knew to be wrong, or was «reckless» in not doing its homework to make sure it was accurate.
In a statement, Fox News did not directly dispute any of the facts presented in Dominion’s filing, but said the company «mischaracterized the record, selected quotes stripped of key context, and spilled a considerable amount of ink on facts that are irrelevant under black letter». principles of defamation law”.
A spokesperson also said that Dominion «refused to allow FOX to make its response to that motion public» and that «the reason for Dominion’s refusal will become clear when the public response is finally released on February 27.»