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The true cost of Dominion’s devastating Fox News bombshells

The result just might be a financial death penalty for the network.
Rupert Murdoch during the Herman Kahn Award Gala on Oct. 30, 2019, in New York.
Rupert Murdoch during the Herman Kahn Award Gala on Oct. 30, 2019, in New York.Mary Altaffer / AP file

I spent almost 25 years as a trial lawyer before I became the host of the Katie Phang Show. Whether it was a criminal or civil case, the facts and the evidence are what mattered the most. And my currency as a trial lawyer? The truth. Sure, as a lawyer, you perfect the art of the spin. But at the end of the day, and no matter how hard you try to make it look nicer or sound better, it’s the truth that will either bring victory or a crushing defeat.

In the Dominion versus Fox News defamation case, Fox is now trapped in an ever-worsening spiral of lies of its own creation. Time and time again, Fox allegedly trafficked in lies and falsehoods. And the result just might be a financial death penalty for the network.

As we’ve seen put forth in the thousands upon thousands of pages of evidence released during the discovery process in this case, people at Fox News allegedly knew the channel was repeatedly peddling lies. But it didn’t care. Because, according to the lawsuit, profits were more important than the truth. Because, as in the words of Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch, Fox did not want to “antagonize [Donald] Trump further,” and he wanted to keep Trump’s supporters as viewers, even as he admitted under oath during his deposition that he “never believed” that Dominion rigged the 2020 presidential election. 

In its most recent filing, Dominion alleges that Fox has now conceded that what it put out for its viewers to consume about Dominion was lies. “Fox has produced no evidence — none, zero -supporting those lies.” Dominion goes even further and argues that Fox could have ultimately reported the truth, but it chose not to do so. Fox also could have retracted those lies, but it chose not to do so.

In a statement, Fox News lawyers said, “Thanks to today’s filings, Dominion has been caught red handed using more distortions and misinformation in their PR campaign to smear FOX News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press.”

Armed with thousands of pages of texts and internal chats and emails by and between Fox hosts, producers and executives, Dominion now seeks to convince a Delaware judge that a jury no longer needs to hear the case because, as a matter of law, there is no work left to be done to decide whether Fox defamed Dominion. On March 21, both sides will appear in court for oral arguments. As Dominion has argued, “It is the rare case to grant summary judgment of actual malice, but it is also the rare case where direct evidence of actual malice exists, as it does here.”  

And some legal experts agree: Dominion doesn’t just have the upper hand, it has the truth on its side. If Dominion is successful, then all that would be left to determine is the amount of damages that Dominion is entitled to receive. That’s where the numbers become astronomical. Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in lost profits and reputational harm. But it’s also seeking punitive damages, which are not capped under New York state law and could also be in the billions of dollars. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and to deter others from repeating that egregious conduct. And a multi-billion-dollar punitive damages verdict would not just punish Fox News. It would send a ringing message to all media companies to keep themselves in check and uphold the truth.