Fox News settles with Dominion for $787 million, avoids defamation trial over its 2020 election lies

Wilmington, Delaware (CNN) Fox News reached a last-minute settlement with Dominion Voting Systems on Tuesday, a lawsuit that raced toward initial reports, paying more than $787 million in a settlement. A massive two-year legal battle It publicly undermined the credibility of the right-wing network.

Fox News’ $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems is the largest publicly known defamation settlement in U.S. history involving a media company.

The settlement was announced just hours after an arbitrator was sworn in at the Delaware Superior Court. After the lunch break, when the proceedings came to a dramatic halt for nearly three hours without explanation, when the parties apparently reached an agreement, rumors of a compromise were rife in the court.

Attorneys representing Dominion Voting Systems leave the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington, Tuesday, April 18, 2023, as a jury trial begins in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News.

“The parties have settled their case,” Judge Eric Davis told the invitees before dismissing the 12-member jury, praising lawyers from both sides for giving the parties an impetus to reach a settlement. The media “trial of the century” before it even began.

Dominion attorney Justin Nelson said the groundbreaking settlement “reflects a sense of fairness and accountability.” “For our democracy to survive for another 250 years, and long to come, we must share a commitment to truth… Today represents a resounding endorsement of truth and democracy.”

The right-wing network said in a statement, “I agree[s] Court rulings have found some of Dominion’s claims false Davis’ recent ruling 20 Fox News broadcasts since late 2020 have contained blatantly untrue claims that Dominion rigged the presidential election. But Fox doesn’t have to admit to spreading lies about Dominion, a Dominion representative told CNN.

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The $787.5 million payment is half of Dominion’s $1.6 billion Originally searched forThat’s nearly 10 times the company’s valuation as of 2018 and eight times its annual earnings in 2021, according to the court filing.

Fox avoids a painful six-week ordeal

A last-minute deal means that a closely watched case is over and will not proceed to trial. By settling with Dominion, influential Fox News executives and prominent celebrities was spared from testifying Regarding their 2020 election coverage, it was filled with lies about voter fraud.

Fox lawyers walk out of court after Fox avoided a trial and settled a defamation lawsuit against Dominion Voting Systems and Fox for $787.5 million in Delaware Superior Court, U.S. April 18, 2023.

The Witness List It includes Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch, his CEO son Lachlan Murdoch, and top Fox hosts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. Emails, texts and deposition testimony made public during the case revealed that these figures and many others at Fox said privately in 2020 that the vote-rigging claims against Dominion were asinine. But the lies were broadcast anyway.

Rupert Murdoch thought Fox personalities made the same claims to millions of viewers that the election denial was “really crazy.” Carlson said Hates Donald Trump “with a passion.”, whose presidency was a “disaster”. Fox hosts, producers, fact-checkers and senior executives personally called the on-air claims of a stolen election “kooky,” “dangerously reckless” and “mind-blowingly scary.”

These expressions are created months of Blisters Fox headlines as the case moves toward trial. By settling now, Fox lost an opportunity to further expose Dominion’s dishonesty through the weeks-long trial.

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“This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards,” Fox said in a statement on Tuesday. “We believe that our decision to amicably resolve this dispute with Dominion, rather than the harsher measures of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”

Fox News and Fox Corporation — the defendant’s parent company — say they never defamed Dominion and that the lawsuit is an unwarranted attack on First Amendment freedom of the press.

Theater Days in Delaware

Speculation about a settlement has reached fever pitch in recent days, especially after the court’s announcement on Sunday One day late The trial will begin on Monday first.

The Arbitrator selection process Tuesday morning closed as scheduled, with both sides preparing for opening statements. They even briefly included objections to specific slides in their presentations. But as the cases did not begin immediately after lunch, as top lawyers from both sides sat in the courtroom, staring at their phones and waiting, the chances of a deal seemed to rise by the minute.

The racially diverse jury of six men and six women was brought back into court, their front row seats ready for a historic trial. But Davis, the judge, told the panel that instead they helped push for a settlement.

“Your existence here is short compared to what you thought, and in a certain sense uneventful,” Davis said. “Without you, the parties cannot resolve their situation.”

Many on the Dominion side hailed the settlement as a victory for democracy and truth.

“Fox has admitted to lying about Dominion that caused great damage to my company, our employees and the customers we serve,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said outside court Tuesday.

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With the Dominion case now closed, Fox News faces one more Smartmatic’s second major defamation case, another voting technology company similarly tainted by Fox News programs after the 2020 election. That case is still in the discovery process, and a trial is not expected anytime soon.

For its part, Dominion still has lawsuits pending against right-wing TV networks Newsmax and OAN, as well as Trump associates Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell. They all deny wrongdoing.

CNN’s Liam Reilly and Danny Freeman contributed to this story.

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