A Fox News producer allegedly sent an unequivocal warning to their colleagues in the wake of the 2020 presidential election: Do not let Jeanine Pirro back on the air.
The cautioning email—the existence of which was reported by NPR—is said to have complained that Pirro was finding dubious conspiracy theories online to bolster then-president Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen by Joe Biden.
The shocking communication has reportedly been obtained by lawyers acting on behalf of Dominion Voting Systems, the election technology company that is suing both Fox News and its parent company in a $1.6 billion defamation fight. Dominion claims it was “irreparably harmed” by misinformation spread about the firm and its practices by some of the most well-known Fox News hosts in the aftermath of Trump’s failed bid to hold on to the White House.
Pirro specifically questioned Dominion’s technology on air, including in one Nov. 14, 2020, segment in which she asked why vote counts went against Trump over the course of Election Night in several states. “The Dominion Software System has been tagged as one allegedly capable of flipping votes,” Pirro said, citing Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell’s claims about Dominion. The Texas state bar association in March asked a judge to discipline Powell over her actions supporting Trump’s unfounded election fraud.
But Pirro was not the only Fox News host to make groundless claims about the election on air, and fellow network stars Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have also been deposed in Dominion’s case, according to reports.
While speaking to Trump in his first interview after the count, Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo reported on explosive claims about the election. “This is disgusting,” Bartiromo said, “and we cannot allow America’s election to be corrupted.” In December 2021, she claimed that she had “an intel source” who told her that it was in fact Trump who had won the election—though her bombshell assertion was never elaborated on or substantiated.
A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment when NPR asked if Bartiromo is still considered to be a news anchor in the network’s reporting division rather than part of its opinion staff. The refusal to comment is the first time Bartiromo has not been identified as a news-side journalist by Fox, according to NPR. Bartiromo is set to be deposed under oath on Thursday.
The legal cases facing Fox could see the media giant forced to pay billions of dollars in damages after a trial, which is scheduled to take place in April next year. But the cases will also have broader ramifications for the American republic as they delve into fundamental questions about the relationship of the media, the White House, and the electorate itself, which ultimately led to a mob storming the U.S. Capitol to stop an election from being certified on Jan. 6, 2021.
An outside attorney acting for Fox News in the Dominion case defended the network’s actions by arguing that reporting on an allegation of voter fraud made by the then-president against Dominion is inherently newsworthy. “Freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be protected,” a senior spokeswoman for Fox News also said in a statement to NPR, adding that the damages sought were “outrageous, unsupported, and not rooted in sound financial analysis, serving as nothing more than a flagrant attempt to deter our journalists from doing their jobs.”