April 20, 2023
Fox News waved the white flag on Tuesday, settling with Dominion Voting Systems just hours into the first day of the bombshell trial over whether the conservative cable giant showed “actual malice” when it peddled election fraud lies about the voting software firm, reports The Daily Beast.
At a press conference shortly after the trial was halted, lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems said they’d settled for $787.5 million—roughly half of what they’d initially sought.
“The truth matters, lies have consequences,” Dominion co-lead counsel Justin Nelson said. “Over two years ago, a torrent of lies swept Dominion and election officials across America into an alternative universe of conspiracy theories, causing grievous harm to Dominion and the country.”
Dominion CEO John Polous called the result an “historic settlement,” adding that Fox “admitted to telling lies about Dominion” that greatly damaged his company and employees.
“Nothing can ever make up for that,” he said. “Throughout this process, we have sought accountability and believe the evidence brought to light through this case underscores the consequences of spreading and endorsing lies. Truthful reporting in the media is essential to our democracy. Dominion, our employees, and our partners are grateful to the court for allowing the process for the truth to come out.”
Fox will not have to provide an on-air apology for its false claims regarding Dominion, according to CNN.
Fox said in a statement: “We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.
“This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward.”
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis first announced to jurors on Tuesday afternoon, April 18, that the parties had “resolved the case.” He commended both sides, noting he had never seen such quality work from lawyers in his 13 years on the bench.
“The quality of the briefing, the ability of attorneys to answer questions, the amount of workload that you’ve done in the case—and I just want to say, I would be proud to be your judge in the future,” Davis said.
The settlement may be the largest in a defamation case involving the media. According to a March 2022 Media Law Resource Center report. The largest known settlement in a defamation suit against a media outlet was in 2012, when ABC settled for $177 million over an investigation involving allegations of “pink slime.”
Rumors of a settlement began circulating on the eve of the trial after Davis announced that the start of the proceedings would be delayed by one day. The Wall Street Journal, owned by Fox News founder and Chairman Rupert Murdoch, reported on Sunday that the network was making a late push to settle.
In a Sunday legal filing, Fox News lawyers also disputed the damages it would pay if found liable by a jury in the $1.6 billion suit, stating that Dominion had recently softened its claims for alleged lost profits totaling upwards of $600 million.
Dominion, however, disputed that, stating that the “damages claim remains” and that the network was well aware that “our damages exceed $1.6 billion.”
“This does not seem unusual to me,” Davis said on Monday morning while delaying the start of the trial. “I am continuing the matter until tomorrow.”
The lawsuit was spurred after various Fox News segments propagated the idea that voting machines made by Dominion were used to rig the 2020 election in favor of Democrats. That and countless conspiracies, including that Dominion was controlled by Venezuela, prompted the company to sue in March 2021 for $1.6 billion.
The case was dragged in court through years of procedural motions before exploding in February—when countless texts, statements, and depositions provided an unprecedented look into Fox News’ operations during the election period.
The texts included Fox stars like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, along with various producers, labeling Donald Trump acolytes such as Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell as “dangerous as hell” and “on the crazy train with no brakes.”
Smartmatic, another voting software company suing Fox News for billions over its 2020 election lies, applauded Dominion’s handling of its case.
“Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign. Smartmatic will expose the rest,” the firm’s lawyer Erik Connoly said in a statement. “Smartmatic remains committed to clearing its name, recouping the significant damage done to the company, and holding Fox accountable for undermining democracy.”
Research contact: @TheDailyBeast