NEW YORK — Fox Corporation President Rupert Murdoch has said under oath that he believes the 2020 presidential election was free, fair and not stolen, according to court documents released Tuesday in a lawsuit over Fox News’ coverage of former President Donald’s unsubstantiated voter fraud claims. Trump.
In January interrogation under oath by Dominion Voting Systems lawyers, Murdoch was asked: “Do you think the 2020 presidential election was free and fair?”
“Yes,” he replied, according to a transcript.
“The election was not stolen,” he later said.
Dominion is suing Fox News for $1.6 billion, saying the network crippled the company’s business by airing false claims by Trump’s lawyers that Dominion had shifted votes in the 2020 election.
Hundreds of pages of evidence in the lawsuit, which is expected to go to trial next month, were released Tuesday night. They shed more light on internal skepticism at Fox about the fraud claims and the network’s concern about viewers angry with its own election night declaration that Democrat Joe Biden had carried Arizona. That evidence and earlier court documents demonstrate how Fox hosts and executives continued to promote those claims to viewers, despite strong doubts and denials behind the scenes.
Federal and state election officials, extensive checks in key battleground states, and Trump’s attorney general found no widespread fraud that could have changed the outcome of the 2020 election. Nor did they uncover any credible evidence that voting was tainted. Trump’s fraud allegations have also been roundly rejected by dozens of courts, including judges he had appointed.
Fox says Dominion is fabricating its claims of lost business and has selected and misrepresented comments from Fox hosts and leaders to paint a picture of a company that neglected the truth to keep its audience.
“Dominion has been caught red-handed using further distortions and misinformation in its public relations campaign to smear Fox News and trample free speech and press freedom,” the company said in a statement Tuesday, complaining that “misrepresenting and even misattributing quotes to the highest levels of our company is truly beyond the pale.”
The documents revealed that senior Fox executives discussed ways to defuse the Trump team’s anger over the election call, including quickly firing a Washington executive behind the Arizona decision.
“We don’t want to antagonize Trump any more,” Murdoch said in a Nov. 16 memo. He explained in the statement: “He had a huge following, and it was probably mostly Fox viewers, so he would have been stupid.”
In an earlier unsealed filing in the Dominion case, Murdoch acknowledged that some of the network’s hosts (Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity) at times endorsed the false claims. He also said that he did not stop commentators from promoting false claims by Trump allies that the election was stolen, although he could have.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Fox Corp. board member, said he never believed Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.
in December In a January 7 text message to Fox executive Lachlan Murdoch, Ryan suggested that Fox deliver a “robust pushback” against the fraud allegations, noting that “this is a key inflection point for Fox, where The right thing to do and the smart thing to do align very well.” .”
The showcases included an extraordinary three-way text conversation on November 16, 2020, between the stars of Fox’s primetime lineup: Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. In the conversation, the three opinion stars complained bitterly, and profanely, that Fox’s news division was hurting them.
“We dedicated our lives to building an audience and they let (newscasters) Chris Wallace and Leland … Vittert tear it apart,” Carlson said, using a swear word.
“I’m upset right now,” Hannity said.
Ingraham said that “we should all think about how together we can force change. The public that exists comes for us ”.
The pressure on Fox from his audience after his correct call in Arizona was also felt in the Fox news ranks. In a memo sent two days after the election to Bill Sammon, Fox’s managing editor in Washington, the anchor Fox News’s Bret Baier said it was getting “really awkward” having to defend the decision on air.
Baier suggested that the sooner Fox reversed its decision and declared Trump the winner in Arizona, “the better off we’ll be,” even if it embarrassed the network.
Sammon responded: “It’s not pride that makes us stick to the call, it’s the math. I am confident that we will be proven right.”
He was, and two months later, Fox forced him out of his job.
The evidence released Tuesday contained several references to allegations against Dominion made by Trump’s lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudolph Giuliani. In an email, Fox’s Dana Perino references Powell’s interview with Fox’s Maria Bartiromo, saying “this is crazy.” Carlson says in a text that “Sidney Powell is lying.”
An email sent Tuesday to a representative for Powell seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Four days after the election, Powell emailed Bartiromo from a woman who claimed that voting irregularities in several states had Dominion as “a common thread.”
Fox said the woman’s email has been misrepresented as a key source for Fox’s reporting on Dominion. Bartiromo said in her statement that she did not remember the email beyond forwarding it to her producer for verification.
Also Tuesday, another voting technology company suing Fox News argued that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch played a prominent role in issuing false claims that their technology helped “steal” the 2020 presidential election from Trump.
Smartmatic said that the Murdochs, as the highest authorities of the network’s corporate parent, “directed Fox News Network to embrace disinformation after the 2020 US election as a business decision.”
Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta; Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix; Gary Fields in Washington; and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.