No separate trial for Murdochs in Dominion’s defamation suit

By | December 23, 2022

A Delaware Supreme Court judge has agreed to consolidate Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation suit against Fox News, meaning there won’t be a second trial to sue the network’s parent company, Fox Corp.

The ruling from Judge Eric Davis is the latest development in Dominion’s suit that accuses Fox News of perpetuating false claims of voter fraud made by former President Trump and his representatives after his loss to Joe Biden in November 2020. Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in damages.

In June, the court ruled against Fox News when it sought to have the suit dismissed, and accepted Dominion’s plea that Fox Corp. — and its top executives and controlling shareholders, Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan — had a “direct role in participating in, approving, and controlling” the airing of baseless claims of voter fraud perpetuated by Trump.

But the court did not honor Dominion’s request for a second trial involving Fox Corp. The ruling issued Thursday means Fox Corp. and Fox News will be defendants in the trial already scheduled for April.

Lachlan Murdoch has been deposited in the case, and his father is also expected to sit for questioning. The court said Wednesday that Fox Corp. must make all deposition witnesses available next month.

Fox News is known for settling lawsuits — it paid $20 million to former anchor Gretchen Carlson, whose sexual harassment allegations against the network brought down its former chief Roger Ailes. But the complaint from Dominion appears to be headed for a trial, where it would probably become one of the most closely watched defamation cases in history.

At a hearing Wednesday, an attorney for Dominion revealed some of the testimony Fox News hosts and executives have given in depositions in which they acknowledged skepticism over the claims presented by Trump’s representatives. The attorney quoted Fox News host Sean Hannity as saying under oath that he “did not believe it for one second.”

While Fox News journalists reported there was no evidence of fraud to the extent that it would change the result of the election, several program hosts allowed Trump’s allies and lawyers Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell to promote theories that the election was stolen with Dominion’s assistance in rigging the results.

Hannity and Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro were among the hosts who gave airtime to Powell as she spread the unsubstantiated allegations.

Dominion alleges that Fox News perpetuated Trump’s false claims to placate viewers who were alienated by the network’s early but ultimately accurate call that Biden had won Arizona, putting him on the path to victory.

Fox News has maintained that the news division’s reporting on the allegations of voter fraud leveled by Trump and his lawyers was newsworthy and protected by the 1st Amendment.

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