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Another explosive Dominion doc dump uncovers an existential crisis at Fox News

In my opinion, these exhibits are powerful smoking guns.

Tuesday brought another “document dump” in the highly watched Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News defamation case. The lawsuit is set to go to trial in April. But before a jury is even seated, the parties are racing toward a March 21 summary judgment hearing that could decide the case in Dominion’s favor without a trial. In preparation for that hearing, a judge has unsealed hundreds of exhibits, composed of thousands of pages of texts, emails, documents and correspondence, almost all of which seem (at least to me) to support Dominion’s claims that from the top of the corporation to the bottom, its owners, executives, hosts, anchors, producers and even fact-checkers knew that Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election and that there was no credible evidence of election fraud.

As these exhibits continue to roll out, we see consistent signs of a kind of civil war brewing within Fox.

Fox News lawyers predictably disagreed in a statement: “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,” the statement said. “We already know they will say and do anything to try to win this case, but to twist and even misattribute quotes to the highest levels of our company is truly beyond the pale.”  

Nevertheless, as these exhibits continue to roll out, we see consistent signs of a kind of civil war brewing within Fox, with star hosts like Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Bret Baier battling with the Fox News decision desk journalists who were trying to accurately characterize 2020 election results. Those hosts complained about the fallout from Fox’s calling Arizona early for President Joe Biden, about how viewers were angry and about how ratings were dropping. According to the unsealed emails and communications, executives like Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott seem to have agreed that hosts had to keep the Trump-loving audiences happy. In other words, truthful reporting about the 2020 election was hurting Fox’s bottom line.

In Tuesday’s evidence, internal chats reveal demands to “get the ‘news division’ under control” suggesting that respected veteran political editors like Chris Stirewalt and Bill Sammon had somehow gone rogue by accurately projecting Biden’s Arizona win. “Why would anyone defend that call,” Hannity asked on a group text chain with other hosts. “We devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland [expletive] Vittert wreck it. Too much.”

Meanwhile, those journalists were watching the reputation of their organization go down in flames. “More than 20 minutes into our flagship evening news broadcast and we’re still focused solely on supposed election fraud — a month after the election. It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” Sammon told Stirewalt on Dec. 2020, according to Tuesday’s filings. “In my 22 years affiliated with Fox, this is the closest thing I’ve seen to an existential crisis — at least journalistically.”

This evidence speaks to the state of mind of the hosts and their bosses. And it will certainly be something the court will consider on March 21.

These examples layer on top of other texts, chats and emails in which Fox News employees complain that MAGA mouthpieces like Sidney Powell were “lying” and “nuts.”

Rupert Murdoch himself noted that a statement announcing Biden had won “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election was stolen.” In new texts released Tuesday, Murdoch wondered whether “Maybe Sean and Laura went too far.”

Indeed.

In my opinion, these exhibits are powerful smoking guns. Fox News knew that the claims about fraudulent or rigged Dominion voting machines were most likely false. But they don't seem to have tried to obtain evidence proving Dominion did anything wrong. Doubling down, Fox News also failed to quickly retract false claims advanced by hosts and guests like Powell and Rudy Giuliani. This evidence speaks to the state of mind of the hosts and their bosses. And it will certainly be something the court will consider on March 21.