Recently released court documents in a defamation case against Fox News over its coverage of the 2020 election reveal a deep rift online between the high-profile prime-time opinion leader and others who are deeply skeptical of allegations of election fraud.
Documents released as part of a lawsuit between Dominion Voting Systems and Fox News describe the organization trying to cover up Donald Trump's failed re-election bid and accusations by the then-president and his supporters that the election was stolen.
In a private text message about two weeks after Election Day, Tucker Carlson and Main Event co-hosts Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity are still upset that the network called the key state of Arizona for Joe Biden on the first night. election, a decision that angered some Fox News viewers.
“We dedicated our lives to getting an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland fuck Wittert ruin it,” Mr. Carlson was referring to former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace and reporter Leland Wittert, according to the document. Mr. Wallace now works for CNN and Mr. Wittert is a reporter for NewsNation.
Ms Ingram later told her two colleagues: "I think the three of us have a lot of power," adding: "We all have to figure out how we can make a difference together."
Other court documents show that in early December, a very different discussion took place elsewhere in the organization, with former Washington bureau editor Bill Sammon complaining that a month after the election, the network's main evening paper was "still focused solely on alleged voter fraud." . . .
"In my 22 years at Fox, this is the closest thing to an existential crisis I've seen — at least as far as journalism goes," says Mr. Judging by the documents, Semon had an internal conversation.
"What I see is that you lose the silent majority of your audience when you go after crazy people," replied Chris Stiruart, then Fox News' political editor.
In March 2021, Dominion sued Fox News for defamation, alleging that the network aired and promoted false claims that the company's voting machine helped sway the 2020 presidential election in Mr. Biden's favor. They are seeking $1.6 billion in damages.
Fox News denied the allegations, saying it was reporting newsworthy allegations made by Trump associates. The network reported that Dominion chose quotes from internal communications and testimonials taken out of context to gain media attention.
Fox News' parent company, Fox Corp. FOX -3.80% , also named as a defendant, and News Corp , the parent company of The Wall Street Journal, are co-owners.
The release of the documents on Tuesday is part of the latest in a flurry of preliminary battles between the two sides. Dominion is citing Fox's internal reports and testimony as evidence of its position that Fox News and parent company Fox Corp. should be sued for defamation. A video of the material was shown during court briefings that began last month, but the full exhibit has not yet been released.
Dominion and Fox News asked the judge to persuade them before the case went to a jury. Testing will begin on April 17.
Fox News Media said the documents it received Tuesday confirm its position on the matter. “Through today's filings, Dominion has once again been caught using false claims and misinformation in its public relations campaign to defame Fox News and trample on free speech and freedom of expression. press," the company said in a statement. .
Fox pointed to the testimony of news anchor and chief political correspondent Brett Baier, who revealed that the network sought to prevent false allegations of fraud from airing. "We're trying to discover and see what's real and what's not, and then release it to the best of our ability," Bayer said while in custody.
The network also reported that the new material revealed that Fox Business host Maria Bartirama, who has been airing false allegations of voter fraud on her show, called on Dominion to take action.
A Dominion spokesman said the documents in the case speak for themselves. "We welcome all of our investigative evidence because it all points to the same thing — that Fox knowingly spread falsehoods that greatly harmed American businesses," the spokesman said.
The documents released Tuesday also include quotes from Fox Corp. Testimony of the President. Rupert Murdoch – heavily edited – which gives a detailed portrait of the role of Mr. Black Artist. Murdoch on top of Fox News. It also shows the ways in which MM Murdoch angered Trump after the election.
Mr. Murdoch said in his testimony that he would never interfere with Fox News' "sacred" election procedures, saying, "I don't interfere with that kind of thing." At another point, he read an email between him and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott in which he discussed what the voting threshold should be to challenge Joe Biden of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Murdoch began his testimony by saying, "I honestly don't know" whether Dominion committed voter fraud by rigging the 2020 presidential election, and denied ever hearing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, the lead defense attorney on the charges. fraud.
how testimony continued, Mr. Murdoch said he believed Mr. Biden was the legitimately elected president from the time Fox News announced the election, and that he had serious doubts about the allegations of voter fraud from the beginning. Under questioning from a lawyer, he admitted that he helped edit a New York Post op-ed that urged Trump to stop claiming the election was stolen, even exposing typographical errors.
In his testimony, Murdoch sought to distance himself from the former president, saying he did not speak to him directly on election night, adding: "I was not close to him." Asked by Dominion's lawyers whether he considered the election results on Election Day 2020 to be "a great day for America", Mr Murdoch said: "Maybe".
While giving evidence about correspondence with his friend Saad Mohseni, the Afghan media mogul, Mr Murdoch was asked about an email in which he said it would be "ridiculous" if the state legislature overturned the election results. "There will be riots like never before," he wrote, according to the statement. He wrote that Trump and Rudy Giuliani, who are leading the voter fraud narrative, are "both crazy." He added: “The real danger is what he might do as president. Don't fall asleep and bounce off the walls! I don't know about Melania, but the children don't help."
At the same time, Mr Murdoch suspected he had alienated his subscribers, saying: "He had a lot of subscribers and they were probably mostly Fox viewers, so it was stupid."
Mr. Murdoch revealed that he reads more newspapers than he watches television, and at one point said he never watched the Fox Business Network.
Email Keach Hagey at Keach.Hagey@wsj.com, Erin Mulvaney at email@example.com, and Joe Flint at Joe.Flint@wsj.com.
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