A Delaware judge found that Fox Corporation and its senior-most leadership was plausibly involved in the proliferation of election-related conspiracy theories on Fox News.
A Delaware judge will allow Dominion Voting Systems to proceed with defamation claims against Fox News and its parent company, the Fox Corporation.
According to The New York Times, the lawsuit could affect the highest echelons of the company’s administration.
Dominion had earlier argued that the Fox Corporation should be a named defendant because its two most senior executives—Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch—played a “direct role in participating in, approving, and controlling” statements that fed false perceptions about the extent of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Fox News repeatedly allowed prominent Trump supporters, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to propagate conspiracy theories—some of which suggested that Dominion intentionally manipulated ballots to favor sitting President Joe Biden.
To date, there is no compelling evidence that widespread voter fraud occurred or in any way influenced the outcome of the election.
In his decision, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis found that Dominion had “adequately pleaded” facts supporting its claim that the Fox Corporation was “directly liable” for Fox News’ content and broadcasts.
Davis also opined that the Murdochs have a clear role in shaping Fox News’ coverage decisions.
“Dominion has adequately pleaded actual malice with respect to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch,” Davis wrote.
Consequently, Davis said that Fox Corporation could have “participated in the creation and publication of Fox News’s defamatory statements.”
Dominion, adds The New York Times, filed a massive, $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News in March 2021.
“The truth matters,” Dominion attorneys wrote in their initial filing. “Lies have consequences. Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to service its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.”
“If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster,” they added, “nothing does.”
The lawsuit, notes the Times, is currently in the discovery phase, during which Dominion’s attorney shall continue to comb through Fox’s internal communications for evidence.
In order for its defamation claim to succeed, Dominion must prove that Fox News, Fox Corporation, and the companies’ management acted with “actual malice.”
In the context of a defamation lawsuit or trial, “actual malice” means that Fox and its executives were either aware or should have been aware that the claims against Dominion were false.
Alternatively, Dominion could demonstrate actual malice by arguing that Fox News showed a reckless disregard for the truth, allowing conspiracy theorists to spread unfounded rumors without concern for facts.