A Delaware Superior Court judge denied a Fox News motion to dismiss a massive $1.6 billion lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems that alleges the news outlet made false claims about the company’s actions and influence on the 2020 presidential election.
In a decision released Thursday afternoon, the court found Fox News’ defenses did not warrant the case being dismissed. “Dominion pleads specific facts that put Fox on notice as to Dominion’s claims. The Complaint, and its exhibits, are detailed and focused, and state a reasonably conceivable defamation per se claim,” said Eric M. Davis in a filing.
However, the judge is at this stage of the proceedings obligated to give Dominion’s claims more weight. “For purposes of the Motion, the Court must view all well-pled facts alleged in the Complaint as true and in a light most favorable to Dominion,” Davis said.
In a statement, Fox News Media said the lawsuit had no merit and the company was simply reporting statements made by prominent newsmakers and officials. “As we have maintained, Fox News, along with every single news organization across the country, vigorously covered the breaking news surrounding the unprecedented 2020 election, providing full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear-cut analysis,” the Fox Corp. unit said. “We remain committed to defending against this baseless lawsuit and its all-out assault on the First Amendment.”
This is the second legal proceeding made against Fox News for its coverage of the aftermath of the 2020 race for the White House. Smartmatic, a voting technology company, has filed a $2.7 billion suit against Fox News, which has sought to have the matter dismissed.
At issue in the suit is an allegation by Dominion that Fox News falsely claimed the company had rigged the election, then repeated items about the matter and refused to engage as Dominion made efforts to set the record straight. The suit even included Fox News and Fox Business anchors, such as Lou Dobbs, who has left the company, and Maria Bartiromo. The 2020 election results were certified by multiple legal processes.
Dominion alleges Fox News Channel was eager to court conservative viewers who were outraged by the network’s call on Election Night that President Biden would be victorious in Arizona, an early prediction that, while correct, was not initially matched by other news outlets and came under criticism from former President Donald Trump. Reports that blamed Dominion and others for influencing the election results, the company argues, served as a potential means of winning back those viewers’ favor. “Fox set out to lure viewers back — including President Trump himself — by intentionally and falsely blaming Dominion for President Trump’s loss by rigging the election,” Dominion alleges in its original lawsuit.
Damages sought in the case are significant, and other news companies have been hurt by defamation suits. Walt Disney’s ABC News in 2017 grappled with a $1.9 billion lawsuit from a South Dakota meat producer that alleged the news operation defamed Beef Products Inc. about the safety of low-cost processed beef trimmings, referred to in a report as “pink slime.” Disney subsequently disclosed costs of $177 million related to the settlement of the case.
Fox News’ corporate parent has remained sanguine about the legal matters. “The amount of additional liability, if any, that may result from these or related matters cannot be estimated at this time,” Fox Corp. said in its most recent quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “However, the Company does not currently anticipate that the ultimate resolution of any such pending matters will have a material adverse effect on its business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.”