At 92, Rupert Murdoch is far from retired. Much of the coverage at Fox News and Fox Business reportedly reflects his enthusiasm for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a possible 2024 GOP presidential candidate. And the Melbourne, Australia native (who has homes in London as well as different parts of the United States) continues to be a highly influential figure in right-wing media.
During a late March pre-trial hearing in Delaware, Judge Eric M. Davis pushed back against what he said were efforts by Fox News attorneys to prevent him from traveling to testify in Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation case against the right-wing cable news outlet. Davis, according to National Public Radio (NPR), believes that Murdoch is still perfectly capable of traveling.
Davis, the judge in that civil defamation case, noted that he had received a letter saying that Murdoch "couldn't travel" to Delaware because of COVID-19. But the judge cited recent examples of the right-wing media mogul planning to travel between his various homes. Davis, according to NPR, warned Fox News' attorneys to "be careful" and not make him "look like an idiot."
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"I also have people telling me that he's done some things recently that (show) he's hardly infirm," Davis told the courtroom.
"On Tuesday, (March 28)," NPR's Karl Baker reports, "Fox attorney Matthew Carter pointed to Murdoch's deposition when responding to Davis' incredulity about the media magnate's ability to travel. Carter said there had been a miscommunication. He said his side hadn't argued that Murdoch was infirm, but that there was no reason for his trial testimony given that the Murdoch had already submitted to seven hours of questioning in the deposition."
Baker adds, "In his deposition, Murdoch asserted that he knew Trump had lost the 2020 election, but certain Fox hosts, including Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs, had ‘endorsed’ the narrative of a stolen election."
It remains to be seen what jurors will think about Dominion's arguments and Fox News' counterarguments in the defamation case. Dominion alleges that Fox News defamed the company when, after the 2020 presidential election, it promoted the false claim that Dominion's voting equipment had been used to help now-President Joe Biden steal votes from then-President Donald Trump.
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Fox News, in the Dominion case, has maintained that it wasn't trying to convince viewers that the company did anything illegal in 2020 — it was simply asking questions. But Dominion, in response, alleges that Fox News knew that the allegations against the company were false but promoted them anyway. As evidence, Dominion is presenting examples of e-mails and text messages in which Fox News hosts — including Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity — acknowledged that claims of a stolen election were nonsense. Moreover, according to Dominion, Carlson attacked Fox News' reporters for debunking claims of a stolen election, as he believed doing so would alienate the cable channel's audience and hurt its brand.
Nonetheless, defamation is very difficult to prove under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1964 standard in New York Times versus Sullivan. According to the Sullivan standard, a plaintiff in a civil defamation case must show that the defendant acted with "actual malice" — and things like sloppy reporting and inflammatory comments do not meet that tough standard.
Dominion has also filed separate defamation lawsuits against Newsmax TV, One America News (OAN) and attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, all of whom it says promoted false claims about the company after the 2020 election.