'Loose-cannon' hosts will likely have to tone their rhetoric or go home in aftermath of Dominion settlement: columnist
Protesters rally against Fox News outside the Fox News headquarters at the News Corporation building, March 13, 2019 in New York City. On Wednesday the network's sales executives are hosting an event for advertisers to promote Fox News. Fox News personalities Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro have come under criticism in recent weeks for controversial comments and multiple advertisers have pulled away from their shows. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Fiery rhetoric may be the lifeblood of cable news, but the landscape is likely to get a lot less fiery.

That’s according to Jim Geraghty, a National Review senior political correspondent who argues in column for The Washington Post that “loose-cannon” hosts may be a casualty of Fox News’ historic $787.5 million settlement with Dominion.

“Watch for cable-news outfits to decommission their loose-cannon hosts — not to squelch free speech but to avoid wrecking revenue,” Geraghty writes.

The “shoot-from-the-hip” personalities that dominate the cable landscape and attract viewers are now likely to be viewed as a liability to risk-averse news executives fearful of being targeted in the next 10-figure defamation lawsuit, Geraghty writes.

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And they have reason to be concerned.

In the Dominion case, a Fox News attorney argued that the network enjoyed protection from the “neutral report privilege,” that according to the Digital Media Law Project “is designed to protect the interests of the press in reporting on matters of public interest, which can often only be done by reporting accusations made by one public figure about another.”

But Geraghty notes that the judge in that case rejected that argument.

“A slightly less bombastic host, who is less likely to potentially defame a company or individual, now looks like the better deal in the long run,” Geraghty writes.

“The risk for a cable news network isn’t that the host will lie or say something not true — unfortunately, hosts and guests on cable news lie all the time, with little consequence — but that a host or guest will say things that may meet the legal standard of defamation about a potential plaintiff with deep pockets.

“Fox News didn’t want to go to court to find out if the defamation standard would apply.”