Fox News, Dominion await key ruling from judge in defamation lawsuit

FILE – Images of Fox News personalities, from left, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiromo, Stuart Varney, Neil Cavuto and Charles Payne appear outside News Corporation headquarters in New York on July 31, 2021. In defending itself against a massive defamation lawsuit over how Fox covered false claims surrounding the 2020 presidential election, the network is relying on a 1964 Supreme Court ruling that makes it difficult to successfully sue media organizations for libel. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

Lawyers for Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems squared off in a Delaware courtroom this week and now await a judge’s ruling on whether the voting system company’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network should proceed to a jury trial.

During the two-day hearing, lawyers for both sides requested Judge Eric Davis rule in thier favor and avoid a trial. Fox has moved to have the case dismissed on First Amendment grounds while Dominion has argued the network acted with actual malice against it and should be awarded the damages it is seeking in full.

Dominion sued Fox in 2021 for airing allegations about its voting systems software that were pushed by former President Trump and his allies, which the company says network leaders knew were false.

“There was a deliberate decision by those responsible for the broadcasts … to let the story be out there,” Dominion attorney Rodney Smolla said, citing depositions and internal communications from Fox employees showing them throwing cold water on Trump’s claims but worrying viewers would abandon the network for fact checking them.

“What they did to get viewers back was start this new narrative that the election had been stolen and that Dominion was the thief,” Smolla said.

Fox’s attorneys have countered with a First Amendment defense, saying the claims made by the president after the election were newsworthy and the network had a duty to cover them.

“All we ever did was provide viewers the true fact that these were allegations that were being made,” Erin Murphy, an attorney for Fox said during the hearing. “What matters is whether the press accurately reports the allegations, not whether the underlying allegations are true or false.”

Neither Fox or Dominion has shown any interest publicly in settling the case, as is common in many high-profile defamation cases involving major media companies.

“Despite the noise and confusion that Dominion has generated by presenting cherry-picked quotes without context, this case is ultimately about the First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute need to cover the news,” the network said in a statement Wednesday. “Fox will continue to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press.”

A spokesperson for Dominion on Wednesday said the company is looking forward to the judge’s ruling.

Davis, the judge in the case, did not indicate how he was leaning on an impending decision for summary judgement, but said a ruling would likely come soon.

“I need to be educated,” Davis said as this week’s hearing began. “I haven’t pre-decided this.”

If Davis is to dismiss both motions for summary judgement, as is widely expected, the case would head to a trial by jury next month.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

Tags Delaware Dominion Voting Systems Eric Davis Fox News

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