Fox News agrees $787.5m settlement in defamation lawsuit with Dominion
The parties “have resolved their case” and dismissed the jury just as the trial was to begin.
The trial was expected to expose how the top-rated network chased viewers by spreading false claims about the 2020 presidential election.
The sudden announcement came after jurors had been seated and lawyers were preparing to make opening statements for a trial that had been expected to last six weeks.
Opening statements, which were scheduled to start later on Tuesday, were delayed before Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis made his announcement.
Dominion had asked for 1.6 billion dollars in arguing that Fox had damaged its reputation by helping peddle conspiracy theories about its equipment. Fox said the amount greatly overstated the value of the Colorado-based company.
The settlement was announced by the judge in the case, who allowed the case to go to trial while emphasising that it was “crystal clear” that none of the allegations about Dominion aired on Fox by allies of former president Donald Trump was true.
Records released as part of the lawsuit showed how Fox hosts and executives did not believe the claims by Mr Trump’s allies but aired them anyway, in part to win back viewers who were fleeing the network after it correctly called hotly contested Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden on election night.
Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson in a news conference outside the courthouse after the announcement said: “The truth matters. Lies have consequences”
Dominion accused Fox of libel for repeatedly airing, in the weeks after the 2020 presidential election, false allegations by Trump allies that its machines and the software they used had switched votes to Biden — even though many at the network doubted the claims and disparaged those making them.
The company sued both Fox News and its parent, Fox Corp.
During a deposition, Fox Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch, who founded the news network, testified that he believed the 2020 election was fair and had not been stolen from the former president.
“Fox knew the truth,” Dominion argued in court papers. “It knew the allegations against Dominion were ‘outlandish’ and ‘crazy’ and ‘ludicrous’ and ‘nuts’. Yet it used the power and influence of its platform to promote that false story.”
A mountain of evidence — released in the form of deposition transcripts, internal memos and emails from the time — was damaging to Fox even if some of the material was only tangentially related to the libel argument.
Much of the material showed a network effectively terrified of its audience after its election night declaration that Mr Biden had won Arizona. The race call infuriated Mr Trump and many viewers who supported him.
One of Fox’s top news anchors, Bret Baier, noted the audience’s anger and suggested rescinding the call, even awarding the state to Mr Trump.
“We don’t want to antagonise Trump further,” Mr Murdoch said in a November 16 memo.
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