Dominion Voting Systems has filed a staggering $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging the cable network pushed false claims that the voting-machine company rigged the 2020 election.
It’s the latest in a string of massive lawsuits from Dominion, which was the target of a baseless and frankly bizarre Trumpist conspiracy theory that it switched millions of votes in order to help Joe Biden win the White House. Fox News joins Trump allies Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell in being chased for damages for spreading the claims.
In its suit against Fox News, Dominion alleges the network “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.” Attorney Justin Nelson accuses Fox News of taking a “conscious, knowing business decision to endorse and repeat and broadcast these lies in order to keep its viewership.”
While some of Fox News’ more legitimate, “hard news” anchors pushed back on the relentless flow of Trumpist election conspiracies, others were perfectly happy to throw their weight behind them. For example, in the week after the election, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer speculated that the Dominion theory being put forward by Powell and others “sounded convincing.”
According to the Associated Press, the Fox lawsuit could be followed by more against specific media personalities at the network, but Dominion wanted to target the entire network first. “The buck stops with Fox on this,” said attorney Stephen Shackelford. “Fox chose to put this on all of its many platforms. They rebroadcast, republished it on social media.”
The Trump campaign and its allies became fixated on voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems in the days after the election. The crackpot theory included the claim that Dominion voting machines were created in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013.
Powell—the pro-Trump lawyer and one of the main proponents of the conspiracy theory—effectively abandoned it earlier this week in the face of her own billion-dollar lawsuit. Her lawyers argue that “no reasonable person” would believe that her election-fraud claims were “statements of fact,” and that they relied upon “exaggeration and hyperbole.”
Fox News Media said in a statement that it’s “proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism, and will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”
Dominion concluded in its lawsuit: “If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”
Since late last year, Fox News has appeared to acknowledge the looming specter of legal ramifications for some of its stars’ claims about vote-tallying companies Dominion and Smartmatic, scrambling to issue on-air corrections and fact-checking segments that stood in stark contrast to the fact-free, right-wing commentary programs where they aired.
Following one legal threat from Smartmatic in December, for example, both Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo aired bizarre segments debunking the very conspiracy theories the Fox Business Network hosts had previously entertained.
Smartmatic eventually sued Fox News, along with Dobbs and Bartiromo, and the network moved to dismiss the suit in February calling it “meritless” and a strike against Fox’s First Amendment rights. Dobbs was eventually canceled by Fox, while Bartiromo remains in the running for a potential weeknight primetime show.
And when asked about a legal threat from Dominion back in December, a Fox spokesperson touted to The Daily Beast an on-air interview the network conducted with a Dominion staffer explaining to viewers that it was “physically impossible” to switch votes.
Current Fox News staffers who spoke Friday with The Daily Beast, on condition of anonymity for fear of corporate reprisals, said they were unsurprised by Dominion’s legal action and would be doubly unsurprised if Fox walks away unscathed.
“They always have and they always will,” said one employee. “This isn’t the first time they’ve been sued. I’m sure they’ll settle for some crazy amount.”
“They will probably settle [but] the collusion between production and the guests that peddled that bullshit is overwhelming,” another current staffer added. “There are those that probably can’t work elsewhere that are worried or people like me that are waiting to be out of their misery.”
“They are already back on top,” noted a Fox News insider. “They’ll settle for like $200 million—about two months profit. They know they can now weather this too. The evil empire.”
Diana Falzone was an on-camera and digital reporter for FoxNews.com from 2012 to 2018. In May 2017, she filed a gender discrimination and disability lawsuit against the network and settled, and left the company in March 2018.