FOX Settles, But What’s the Point?

The logos of Dominion Voting and Fox News tilted against each other

The logos of Dominion Voting and Fox News tilted against each other
As both a print journalist and a broadcaster, I am compelled to comment on the recently resolved defamation suit involving Dominion Voting Systems and FOX. To recap, Dominion filed suit against FOX for broadcasting numerous lies about the integrity and accuracy of DVS tabulations during the 2020 Presidential election. Though Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by more than 7 million votes, FOX hosts like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter told their viewers that the election had been stolen in part due to rigged vote counts by Dominion.

That FOX News and its on-air personalities defamed Dominion was never in question, but during pre-trial discovery, attorneys for Dominion learned that the talking heads at FOX had admitted privately that the election had not been stolen. It was also revealed that the reason for their duplicity was purely monetary. Murdoch did not want to lose viewers and revenue, and both would have happened had his News folks told the truth on air. At any rate, the damning and mounting evidence put FOX attorneys in a precarious position. Dominion was seeking $1.6 billion dollars in damages, and likely would have been awarded that amount by a jury, so FOX cut a deal to pay DVS $787 million dollars and avoid a lengthy trial. It was believed to be the largest such settlement in a defamation action, and it seemed to send a warning to purveyors of fake news everywhere. Unfortunately, the victory was hollow for several reasons. First, because FOX News is not likely to alter its behavior. As Angelo Carusone, chairman of Media Matters for America, told CNN, “My warning to everybody is FOX News is about to burn brighter and hotter as a result of this.”

Second, is the problem with transparency, or lack of it. We’ve all seen TV courtroom dramas in which a guilty party is offered a plea deal, but only if he agrees to publicly allocute to his crimes. Yet when the Dominion deal was negotiated, there was no requirement that FOX News personalities go on air and admit to having lied about DVS and the so-called rigged election. That means there’s no real closure in the FOX defamation case. In other words, gullible FOX viewers will never be told by their idols that the 2020 election was not stolen, thus the votes they cast in the future will continue to be based on lies. 

hird, and most importantly, I’m concerned about the damage that FOX has already done, not so much to Dominion, but to our democracy. Donald Trump was a frequent call-in guest on FOX News programs, including leading up to the January 6 insurrection. Together, the former President and his lap dog anchorpersons spewed and reinforced “the Big Lie” to such an extent that they inspired and encouraged viewers to rise up and revolt in protest over the stolen election. Trump himself may eventually be indicted over his role in inciting thousands of violent insurrectionists to storm the Capitol in hopes of preventing the 2020 votes from being certified. But what of FOX News? Now that they have admitted privately to defaming Dominion, why shouldn’t they be charged with aiding and abetting Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the election by obstructing the work of Congress? And what of the hundreds of injured police officers and of those who died as a result of the insurrection? Shouldn’t FOX News be charged as an accessory to those assaults?

Paying out $787 million dollars is chicken feed to Rupert Murdoch plus his insurance will cover part of it anyway. Nevertheless, it’s hardly a fitting punishment for the multiple and far-reaching offenses that FOX News has committed against the electorate. Perhaps then prosecutors will go out on a limb and charge Hannity, Carlson, and Coulter with personally perpetrating hate crimes. Or maybe the FCC will revoke the network’s license to broadcast. But don’t hold your breath that any substantive penalties will be meted out. Unfortunately, as it stands now, these despicable, lying personalities are going to get away with heinous behavior, which almost resulted in the overthrow of our government. They tried to steal something precious to us and we stopped them just in the nick of time. The question is, will we be able to stop them again if there’s a next time?


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