‘It’s Not About the Law’

Next month, Fox News will go to court in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems over the cable news channel’s coverage of the 2020 election. But according to Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of Fox News’ parent NewsCorp, the coverage surrounding the case is political.

Murdoch briefly addressed the lawsuit during Fox’s presentation at Morgan Stanley’s 2023 Technology Media and Telecom Conference Thursday. Asked about updates to the case or what the public should know about the situation, Murdoch hedged to share details but defended the right-leaning cable giant by implying that the interest in the case has more to do with politics than concerns over the law or proper journalism.

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“A news organization has an obligation, and it has an obligation to report news fully, wholesomely, and without fear or favour, and that’s what Fox News has always done,” he said during his presentation. “And that’s what Fox News will always do. And I think a lot of noise that you hear about this case is actually not about the law. And it’s not about journalism, and it’s really about the politics, right. And that’s, unfortunately, more reflective of this kind of polarized society that we live in today.”

Murdoch’s comments came the day after texts and emails from Fox talent and executives were released in preparation for the case, revealing negative opinions against former President Donald Trump from high-profile figures at the network that heavily contrasted with the positive coverage the programming provided him. One of the people included in the released messages was Tucker Carlson, one of the highest profile hosts at the network, who sent several texts expressing skepticism about Trump’s theories that the election was stolen, despite covering them earnestly on his show.

A person familiar with the matter told IndieWire that Murdoch considered Tucker a close friend and the most important person in the network. However, the source also said that Murdoch and his family — led by patriarch Rupert Murdoch — might not be afraid to fire anyone who hurts the business.

The Dominion suit was filed in March 2021, shortly after the January 6 insurrection. Dominion alleges defamation after Fox’s post-election coverage devoted airtime to conspiracy theories that the company manipulating vote counts through the machines they provided for the election. The case will head to jury trial in April.

Additional reporting by Tony Maglio.

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