Rupert Murdoch: Hannity, Ingraham ‘went too far’ in promoting Trump’s false claims about 2020 election
Rupert Murdoch, owner and co-chairman of Fox Corp., worried to Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott that top hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham “went too far” in endorsing former President Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, new court filings show.
In an email dated Jan. 21, 2021, Murdoch wrote to Scott bemoaning the network was still “getting mud thrown at us” over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and for suggestions that the rhetoric of top talent at the network could have contributed to the attack.
“Maybe Sean and Laura went too far,” Murdoch wrote to Scott, Fox News’s top executive, according to the filing. “All very well for Sean to tell you he was in despair about Trump but what did he tell his viewers?”
The court filings were made late Tuesday by Dominion Voting Systems, which is suing Fox for defamation seeking $1.6 billion in damages, arguing the network knowingly aired false claims about its software.
Fox has so far unsuccessfully moved to have the case dismissed on First Amendment grounds and has called into question the snippets Dominion has highlighted in court filings and cast doubt on the company’s financial valuation.
Fox issued a scathing rebuke of Dominion’s filings on Tuesday evening, accusing the voting systems company of smearing its journalistic integrity and highlighting the fact top host Maria Bartiromo invited Dominion CEO John Poulos on her show to discuss the allegations being made against his company.
“Thanks to today’s filings, Dominion has been caught red handed using more distortions and misinformation in their PR campaign to smear FOX News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press,” Fox said in a statement. “We already know they will say and do anything to try to win this case, but to twist and even misattribute quotes to the highest levels of our company is truly beyond the pale.”
Murdoch’s email to Scott is just the latest in a slew of revelations made public through Dominion’s process of legal discovery, which Fox’s attorneys have argued have made for good headlines as the company builds its legal case but do not yet meet the legal standard for defamation.
Murdoch, in a previously filed court document, acknowledged Hannity was “privately disgusted” with Trump’s actions following his loss in the 2020 election, despite showing steadfast support on air.
“Thanks Paul,” Murdoch wrote to former House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.), who sits on the board of Fox Corp., according to the previous filing. “Wake-up call for Hannity, who has been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers.”
In depositions made as part of the same filing, Murdoch was questioned by Dominion’s lawyers about whether top hosts at Fox backed Trump’s false claims about the election.
“In fact, you are now aware that Fox endorsed at times this false notion of a stolen election?” one of Dominion’s lawyers asked Murdoch during his deposition.
“Not Fox, No. Not Fox. But maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria, as commentators,” Murdoch replied. “Some of our commentators were endorsing it … Yes. They endorsed.”
A trial in the case is expected to begin next month.
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