As a result of its coverage of the 2020 US election, Fox News has resolved a defamation lawsuit filed by voting equipment manufacturer Dominion.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned network has agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million (£634 million). Although there will be a sizable compensation, Fox will avoid what some have called the “defamation trial of the century.”
However, another voting technology company, Smartmatic, has filed a second, related case against the network. Thanks to the settlement, Fox and Dominion may declare triumph with the matter now behind them.
“The reality is two big companies in this case, are by nature risk averse. And any time you got a jury, it’s risky,” David Logan, professor of law at Roger Williams University, told the BBC.
It is one of the largest financial settlements in a slander case ever at approximately $800 million. “It’s obviously a significant number, and we shouldn’t dismiss that. I mean, it is a really, really large number,” Angelo Carusone, president of left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters for America, told the BBC.
Though it is less than half of the $1.6 billion that Dominion had originally requested. For context, parent firm Fox Corporation recorded net income of $1.23 billion for the most recent fiscal year. It also has a sizable cash reserve of $4 billion, per recent corporate filings.
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According to Forbes magazine, Rupert Murdoch and his family are thought to be worth $17.6 billion. They are in charge of the News Corp media empire, which includes Fox News, The Times of London, and The Wall Street Journal.
The agreement also prevents Mr. Murdoch, Fox executives, and several of the network’s anchors from being required to testify in one of history’s most well-known defamation cases.
“Fox was going to have to deal with another round of embarrassing revelations,” Prof Logan said. Should Dominion have prevailed, the possible financial burden of the litigation may have also been considered by the company’s legal counsel.
In a written statement, Fox admitted what the court had found to be true—that Fox had lied about Dominion—but it made no apologies.
“We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues,” the statement said.
Fox, though, won’t be able to put the problems with its coverage of the 2020 election behind it just yet. Another electoral technology company, Smartmatic, has filed a second, related defamation action against it and is seeking $2.7 billion. The $787.5 million Fox payoff for Dominion might just be the beginning.
It still has cases pending against numerous of former President Donald Trump’s allies as well as Fox’s smaller competitors Newsmax and OAN.
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