There was a secret at Fox News after the 2020 election that they tried to keep from getting out. Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and everyone else at Fox knew the election wasn’t stolen or rigged. They all knew Biden won a free and fair election. They also knew Trump, Guiliani, Mr. Pillow (Mike Lindell), Sydney Powell and the others doing Trump’s bidding were lying about the election being stolen. But they didn’t want you, the Fox viewer, to know they knew.
Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity lied to viewers over and over and over again to keep the Fox ratings up. They also threatened journalists at Fox to stop them from telling you the truth. Cancel culture on steroids. Tell the truth at Fox? you lose your job. They were afraid OANN and Newsmax would beat them in the ratings game if they told the truth. Fox lied to you to make more money by keeping its market share up. Why? Because you, the Fox news viewers, would change the channel if Fox told you the truth. Fox viewers didn’t want to know that Trump lost. Fox viewers wanted to think the election was stolen. And Fox viewers wanted to think that there was a sneaky way that Dominion and Smartmatic had rigged their voting machines against Trump. The Big Lie about voting machines was pushed by Fox and OAN and Newsmax which has resulted in multiple lawsuits to force the truth out into the open.
Fox (and these other outlets) assumed its viewers were a bunch of snowflakes who couldn’t take the truth. Since Fox viewers were in fact running away from Fox when they started to tell the truth and viewers tuned into other outlets that told them what they wanted to hear, even though it was a lie, Fox was right to believe their viewers were wimps and snowflakes who couldn’t handle the truth.
The only reason the truth has come out now is because of a series of lawsuits (14 in all) brought by Dominion and Smartmatic (makers of the voting machines used in the 2020 election) alleging various conspiracies and knowingly made false statements that Fox News, OANN, Rudy Guiliani, Sydney Powell, and other hosts engaged in lies to the detriment of these voting machine companies causing millions of dollars of lost revenue and lost good will by the companies.
In the course of the lawsuit against Fox News, which is the first of the lawsuits that will be tried starting in April, text message communications between Fox hosts have been exposed in the discovery process. Those text messages show the shocking hypocrisy of Fox and their hosts with millions of loyal viewers. The bottom line was that key Fox hosts and Rupert Murdoch were well aware that Trump had lost the election, Biden had won the election and the Big Lie was just that… a Big Lie.
Here is more detailed information from Politico
The internal communications revealed by Dominion Voting Systems paint a stark and damning picture — a split screen between the false and conspiratorial claims beamed to Fox viewers about rigged Dominion voting machines, and the private, candid opinions of the network’s hosts and executives, who repeatedly admitted to each other that the claims were utter, unsourced garbage.
Dominion’s 200-page filing not only lays out a tale of rank hypocrisy, but it weaves a broader narrative about what drove the campaign of disinformation — documenting the panic inside the network’s ranks after conservative discontent over its early (and accurate) call of Arizona for JOE BIDEN translated into a viewership boom for its less scrupulous competitor, Newsmax, as an aggrieved DONALD TRUMP lashed out at Fox.
“He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong,” primetime host TUCKER CARLSON texted his producer just two days after the election — one of dozens of frank admissions aired by Dominion.
And so, the filing argues, fears of lost viewers and lost profits led Fox’s most powerful figures to indulge baseless claims of conspiracy and fraud and, in some cases, move to sideline news reporters who took basic steps to fact-check claims made by the likes of SIDNEY POWELL and RUDY GIULIANI on the network’s airwaves.
Here are some of the most eye-popping revelations …
ON POWELL AND GIULIANI: In a series of text messages, Carlson, SEAN HANNITY and LAURA INGRAHAM lambasted Powell and Giuliani for peddling conspiratorial goods without evidence. “Sidney Powell is lying. Fucking bitch,” Carlson wrote to Ingraham on Nov. 18. “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy,” Ingraham responded.
WHAT MURDOCH REALLY THOUGHT: Fox Chairman RUPERT MURDOCH called the idea that the election was stolen “really crazy stuff.” Shortly after the election, his top execs circulated a New York Post piece urging Trump to “stop the ’stolen election’ rhetoric” and “get Rudy Giuliani off TV.” They also openly fretted about whether Hannity, Ingraham and Carlson would indulge the conspiracy theories on their shows.
RATINGS VS. FACT-BASED JOURNALISM: Emails and texts in the filing suggest that Fox’s top executives and stars were less worried about factual accuracy than about ratings crashing after viewers who bought into Trump’s election lies began to seek out different channels that would support their biases.
While one Fox exec called Newsmax’s ratings surge “troubling” and said the channel trafficked in an “alternative universe,” they also argued that the trend “can’t be ignored.” Another said the message had been sent out internally that the network was now on “war footing.”
According to the filing, Fox did a quick about-face to protect its brand — leaving journalists at the network who reported the truth about the election in the crosshairs:
— On Nov. 9, 2020, host NEIL CAVUTO cut away from White House press secretary KAYLEIGH McENANY as she made unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election. “I can’t in good countenance continue to show you this,” Cavuto said on the air. For this, Fox News Senior VP (and former Trump White House press aide) RAJ SHAH labeled Cavuto a “brand threat” in a message to top corporate brass.
— Hannity and Carlson tried to get Fox News reporter JACQUI HEINRICH fired for fact-checking a Trump tweet about Dominion and noting that there was no evidence of votes being destroyed.
“Please get her fired. Seriously… What the fuck?” Carlson texted Ingraham and Hannity on Nov. 12, 2020. “It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”
Hannity exploded on top execs, including one who panicked and wrote that Heinrich “has serious nerve doing this and if this gets picked up, viewers are going to be further disgusted” with Fox. (CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported last night that Heinrich was “blindsided” by this disclosure.)
— On Nov. 19, 2020, after Fox broadcasted the now-infamous Giuliani and Powell press conference about Dominion, then-White House correspondent KRISTEN FISHER got in trouble for fact-checking their bogus claims.
Per the filing: “Fisher received a call from her boss, BRYAN BOUGHTON, immediately after in which he emphasized that higher-ups at Fox News were also unhappy with it, and that Fisher needed to do a better job of, this is a quote, “respecting our audience.” (Politico)
What Are the Defenses Fox Will Present?
There are defenses to these lawsuits that Fox will raise. To begin with libel is the allegation and
Libel is the publication of false statements of fact that harm a person’s or organization’s reputation, and the courts have developed principles to balance the interests of reputation and speech. (Vanity Fair)
For Dominion to succeed in this suit it will need to show “reckless disregard” for the truth in the actions and statements made by Fox news hosts and personnel. The question will be whether:
Fox personnel knew they were airing false statements or aired them with reckless disregard of their truth or falsity. The latter requires proof of a “high degree of awareness of their probable falsity.” This would take into account whether Fox’s sources were reliable, whether Fox ignored clear signs that the statements were wrong, whether Fox adequately investigated the facts, and what motives shaped the statements. Reckless disregard is frequently a mix of these factors, and it’s very possible Dominion could demonstrate it, based on what we know so far. (Vanity Fair)
One of Fox’s arguments is that its coverage was merely opinion and hyperbole rather than fact. That’s a play for the First Amendment’s sweeping protections for such expression. (Vanity Fair)
The difficulty is distinguishing statements of opinion and hyperbole from those of fact. One shorthand is that facts are provably true or false, and opinions are matters of belief. In the Dominion litigation, some of the statements at issue are provably true or false … the facts must be accurately presented and reasonably interpreted. Otherwise, as the Supreme Court held, “Even if the speaker states the facts upon which he bases his opinion, if those facts are either incorrect or incomplete, or if his assessment of them is erroneous, the statement may still imply a false assertion of fact.” This is sure to be a problem for Fox. (Vanity Fair)
Dominion seems to have a strong case against Fox and Fox seems to have relatively fragile defenses that may not protect them from massive damages Dominion is requesting. Dominion wants $1.6 billion in damages.
The Irony of the Likely Outcome
We live in perilous political times in America in large part because mis and dis information is ripping our country apart by creating two very different realities about what is happening in our country. It used to be Americans started with the same facts. Not anymore. Depending on one’s information silo, Americans trust and believe in very different political realities these days. But that is because news sources especially on the right are ok with distorting or outright lying about important facts.
These lawsuits by Dominion and Smartmatic are zeroing in on the crux of the problem: news outlets that should be giving Americans the truth, are instead knowingly disseminating factually inaccurate information. The January 6th insurrection, for example, would not have happened without rightwing disinformation amplified by rightwing platforms that broadcast the Big Lie about a stolen election that was not stolen. These lawsuits for economic redress by Dominion and Smartmatic may turn out to be important cases that will help to quell the rampant mis and disinformation from the rightwing. These lawsuits might effectively dampen the enthusiasm of rightwing outlets to allow themselves to be propaganda bullhorns for Donald Trump, the Big Lie and other rightwing politicians if it costs too much to do that. Economics was the motivator for disseminating lies in the first place. Fox was trying to keep its market share of Trump-loving American Fox news watchers. But the cost of lying to keep their viewers coming back for more may turn out to be too expensive.