Rupert Murdoch Concedes That Fox News Anchors 'Endorsed' Bogus Election Fraud Claims
Fox Corp. chairman's deposition testimony could prove harmful in voting machine company Dominion's $1.6 billion lawsuit against the far right media company
Fox Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that Fox News hosts rendered on-air support for former President Donald Trump's spurious claim that the 2020 national election was bogus, even though they understood this assertion wasn't supported by any evidence.
"Not Fox, no. Not Fox," Murdoch said, while testifying in January in a deposition tied to Dominion Voting System's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp. “Some of our commentators were endorsing it. They endorsed."
Murdoch's answer was in direct response to a question about Fox News personalities Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo.
“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight," Murdoch added.
The New York Times has a full copy of Murdoch's deposition here.
The Fox chairman's response was perhaps the most damning yet in the suit, in which Dominion is trying to prove that Fox privately knew the rigged election claims -- and associated accusations that Dominion aided and abetted the alleged election cheating -- were bogus, yet rendered them public support, anyway.
Further, asked by a Dominion attorney if Murdoch could have told Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott or network hosts to stop putting rigged-election proponents, including Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, on the air, Murdoch responded: “I could have. But I didn’t.”
In recent weeks, text messages sent by Fox personalities have emerged from Dominion's lawsuit, portraying Fox News' key stakeholders as cynical about the former president's claims.
“Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” Tucker Carlson is said to have texted.
Laura Ingraham reportedly said: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.”
But at the same time, these popular TV hosts were deeply concerned about the channel's ratings in the aftermath of Trump's election loss.
Trump became incensed on election night when Fox News called the State of Arizona's vote in favor of winning President Joseph Biden ahead of most TV and digital news competitors. The former President turned against Fox News, publicly endorsing upstart far right competitor Newsmax.
Dominion contends that the desperation to bring back lost viewership caused Fox News hosts, against their wiser, er, journalistic instincts, to get behind the former president's BS narrative. This, even despite internal warnings.
For example, in his own deposition, Viet Dinh, Fox's chief legal officer, said he warned top Fox Corp. executives, including CEO Lachlan Murdoch, that “Hannity is getting awfully close to the line with his commentary and guests tonight.”
For its part, Fox has defended its coverage, saying it was simply reporting on the news and newsmakers of the moment.
Reads a Fox statement provided to CNBC Monday: “Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear Fox for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment.”
If the risk of a costly settlement with Dominion weren't enough, Fox News is also dealing with the exposure of its brand as something beyond a mere cable news channel.
An earlier deposition leak revealed Murdoch as not wanting to further alienate Trump following Fox News's fateful Arizona call, lest a nasty public feud with the former president not only hurt Fox, but also damage the Republican Party in its effort to win a Senate runoff election in Georgia.
"Everything is at stake," Murdoch reportedly told Fox News underlings.
Meanwhile, as widely reported (opens in new tab) on Monday, Dominion lawyers say that Murdoch provided Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, with early information on Biden campaign ads that would soon appear on Fox News. He also is said to have given Kushner information about Biden's debate strategy ahead of the now President's face-off with Trump that was moderated by former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace.
As for Fox Corp. stock? Perhaps because they've seen Murdoch and Fox News survive this kind of ostensibly damning thing before, investors don't seem worried. Fox Corp. share prices held largely flat Monday.
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!