Legal experts believe that Fox News could be in real trouble for spreading baseless conspiracy theories about Donald Trump's election loss.
A judge ruled last month that Dominion Voting Systems could move forward with its lawsuit against Fox Corp., the conservative news network's parent company, for amplifying bogus claims that it rigged the election for Joe Biden, and Judge Eric Davis made clear the $1.6 billion suit was not frivolous, reported The Guardian.
“These allegations support a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth when they allegedly caused Fox News to propagate its claims about Dominion,” Davis said in his ruling.
That doesn't guarantee Fox News or the Murdochs will be held liable, but legal experts agree the suit poses a real threat to conservative networks that spread the conspiracy theories.
“Dominion has a very strong case against Fox News – and against OAN for that matter,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a constitutional law professor at Stetson University and a fellow at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. “The reason Dominion is suing is because Fox and other rightwing news outlets repeated vicious lies that Dominion’s voting machines stole the 2020 election from Trump for Biden. But all of these conspiracy theories about Dominion’s machines were just pure bunk, and Fox as a news organization should have known that and not given this aspect of the big lie a megaphone.”
“What’s particularly bad for Fox is [that] Dominion asked them to stop and correct the record in real time, " she added, "and Fox persisted in spreading misrepresentations about the voting machine company.”
Davis noted in his ruling that newspapers under Rupert Murdoch's control, such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, condemned Trump's election lies and urged the former president to concede his loss, and text messages obtained by the Jan. 6 commission show communication between Fox News hosts and White House officials about the insurrection.
“I think once you start to pull the discovery material, what you’re going to find is there was a lot of communication between the Trump people both internally and externally about pushing very specific lies and narratives,” said Angelo Carusone, president and chief executive of Media Matters for America.
Fox News would probably survive, but the much smaller OAN and Newsmax, which are also being sued by Dominion and election software company Smartmatic, could be decimated in court.
“I think OAN is going to be wiped out from the litigation costs," Carusone said. "Forget about any judgment.”
Newsmax has enough cash to survive a trial and even pay the damages sought by Dominion and Smartmatic, but OAN is already struggling after it was dropped by DirecTV, which was responsible for 90 percent of its revenue, and the network appears to be in a death spiral.
“We’ve started seeing, already, them scaling back programming, they’ve been laying off staff, they’ve been cutting back the number of programs," Carusone said. "So it’s pretty clear that they don’t have sufficient resources to weather a protracted litigation.”
Fox News issued a statement saying: “Limiting the ability of the press to report freely on the American election process stands in stark contrast to the liberties on which this nation was founded and we are confident we will prevail in this case as the First Amendment is the foundation of our democracy and freedom of the press must be protected.”