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Newly unsealed court documents make matters worse for Fox News

The first revelations from Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against Fox News were devastating. Newly unsealed records make matters even worse.


It’s too soon to say whether Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against Fox News will succeed in the courts, but it’s already succeeding in doing extraordinary political harm to the network. The first set of revelations, from nearly two weeks ago, painted a picture of a media outlet that deliberately promoted bogus election claims they knew to be false.

According to the court filing, this happened in the aftermath of the 2020 elections, not because Fox News was sloppy or careless, but because it felt a financial need to pander to its core audience: Telling viewers the truth risked pushing them away, so the network promoted ridiculous claims and promoted ridiculous voices in order to profit.

Late yesterday, a second shoe dropped. NBC News reported:

News Corp. Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch declined to rein in Fox News hosts who spread false claims of widespread voter fraud in the days after the 2020 election despite privately expressing that he had seen little evidence for then-President Donald Trump’s claims and that he found half of them “bulls--- and damaging,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.

As part of his sworn testimony, Murdoch conceded that some Fox News hosts — including prominent voices such as Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo — “endorsed” baseless claims that Fox knew to be wrong, and the News Corp. executive chose not to stop them. Asked during his deposition about allowing MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell to make outlandish claims on the air, Murdoch agreed that "it is not red or blue, it is green.” [Update: see below.]

NBC News’ report also added this previously unknown claim:

The filing also offered new insight into the relationship between Murdoch and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, asserting that Murdoch provided Kushner with “Fox confidential information” about Joe Biden’s ads, as well as debate strategy.

I’m not altogether clear on how or why Murdoch would have confidential information about the Democratic candidate’s debate strategy, but Fox News was in a position to have confidential information about Biden/Harris advertising, and if Murdoch really did share those secrets with Kushner, it would add fresh evidence of Fox playing the role of an appendage to the larger Republican machine.

As for the legal implications, my MSNBC colleague Jordan Rubin explained in a new piece that this latest filing “is filled with evidence that Fox should fear a jury seeing at a trial — if the case gets that far.”

Just hours after these court documents were unsealed, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas appeared on Hannity’s prime-time program and told viewers, “As I sit here and listen to those folks on TV ... it makes me angry. Because they’re lying. They’re deliberately lying. They knew they were lying.”

In context, the Texas Republican was referring to news related to Covid, but given the larger circumstances, including the network and program on which Cruz was appearing, it seemed like an unfortunate rhetorical choice.

Correction (March 7 at 3:46p.m.): Originally, this post attributed the “it is not red or blue, it is green" quote to Murdoch directly, but the deposition shows that while he agreed with the sentiment, the executive did not use those words himself. They came instead from lawyers representing Dominion. The above text has been edited accordingly.