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Fox News’s quiet coverage of its blockbuster settlement with Dominion

Fox News settled the lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems shortly after a jury was selected. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)
4 min

Newscasts and headlines were dominated Tuesday by reports that Dominion Voting Systems had settled its defamation case against Fox News for a staggering $787.5 million.

Except, that is, on Fox News.

One of few Fox hosts to mention the settlement at all on Tuesday, Neil Cavuto, informed his viewers of the enormous sum, citing the Wall Street Journal. On later broadcasts, network media analyst Howard Kurtz announced that “a Dominion lawyer gave reporters a dollar figure for the settlement,” without mentioning what it was. “But I have not been able to independently confirm that.”

Compare that with rival networks CNN and MSNBC, which blanketed coverage of the settlement into Wednesday morning. Or to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (which, like Fox, is controlled by Rupert Murdoch), which ran the news on their front pages.

Dominion had sued Fox for $1.6 billion, claiming the network defamed the voting-technology company for knowingly or recklessly airing false election fraud claims about voting machines undermining the 2020 election. The enormous size of the settlement — possibly the largest of its kind in U.S. history — was reported just hours after a jury was selected on Tuesday.

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Fox News agreed to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems, settling a defamation lawsuit that made headlines, particularly with the release of private communications within the cable-news company after the 2020 election. Here’s a cheat sheet.
Why Dominion sued Fox
Dominion argues that Fox unfairly smeared it when the network aired bogus and debunked claims from allies of Donald Trump that its voting machines were supposedly rigged to “flip” votes to Joe Biden. The lawsuit alleges that Fox executives knew such claims were false but allowed them to be broadcast anyway.
What the settlement means
We don’t know the full terms of the settlement, but it’s the largest publicly disclosed defamation settlement in American history. As part of the settlement, Fox says it won’t be required to apologize on-air. Because an agreement has been reached, the trial will not go forward, sparing Fox more spectacle.
What happened in the depositions
Dominion deposed several prominent Fox executives and personalities including Jeanine Pirro, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. In his deposition, Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of parent company News Corp, said of election misinformation “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight.”
What Fox’s internal emails and texts say
Some show Fox executives and hosts, including Carlson, voicing strong doubts about claims from Trump’s lawyers; some of those same people, though, expressed fear their audience would reject pushback of false claims and scolded Fox journalists who reported information that questioned the claims. Fox claims many exchanges have been taken out of context.


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Only a handful of Fox programs discussed the lawsuit’s blockbuster conclusion at all, according to a search of show transcripts.

Host Sean Hannity opened his show — where some of conspiracy theories about Dominion found a welcome home in 2020 — with no mention of the settlement but rather previewing topics such as protests in Chicago and calling Tax Day one of the year’s “worst days.”

Tucker Carlson, who said a Trump-aligned attorney sharing conspiracy theories about Dominion on Fox was “lying” in private texts that surfaced during the lawsuit, likewise didn’t talk about the case during his hour-long program. Instead, he ran the second half of an interview with Elon Musk and criticized campaign financial disclosures from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).

And over on, the story about the settlement ran around 200 words. The first quote came from the judge who “praised both parties for their handling of the case,” the article stated.

Elsewhere on Fox, hosts gave viewers the basic rundown of the case. But viewers who watched only Fox News might not know major beats of the saga, such at the fact that, last month, Judge Eric M. Davis forbid Fox from arguing in court that the election fraud claims may have been true. (Evidence showed it’s “CRYSTAL clear” they were false, the judge wrote in an opinion.)

On April 18 Fox News agreed to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems potentially avoiding a lengthy trial. (Video: Michael Cadenhead/The Washington Post)

After the settlement was reached, Fox released a statement acknowledging that it had aired false claims, which was read on air by Kurtz and a handful of anchors: “We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”

But the network did little to elaborate. The short story on Fox’s website, for example, never mentioned how the judge reprimanded Fox during pretrial hearings over missing evidence, and said it had a “credibility problem.”

Kurtz, who hosts “MediaBuzz,” revealed in February that he had been prohibited by Fox from covering the Dominion case. “The company has decided that as part of the organization being sued, I can’t talk about it or write about it, at least for now.”

That clearly changed; Kurtz was in the Delaware courtroom where the case was being heard Tuesday. Shortly after the jury was selected in the morning, he appeared on Fox in a three-minute-long segment and previewed the opening statements expected later in the day. They were never delivered, as the startling news of the 1th-hour settlement broke that afternoon.

Kurtz may have subsequently delivered the network’s most hard-hitting coverage of itself when he paraphrased a statement released late Tuesday by the chief executive of Dominion: “Fox has admitted telling lies about Dominion.”

Azi Paybarah, Ben Brasch and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff contributed to this report.

Dominion v. Fox lawsuit

Fox News agreed to settle a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems for $780 million, canceling a highly-anticipated trial just hours after jury selection was completed. Here are four takeaways from the settlement.

Dominion’s lawsuit: The voting technology company filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging that the networks’ guests and hosts defamed the company by connecting it to a fictitious plot to steal the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. Here’s what to know about the lawsuit.

What Fox News’s major players said in private: Internal emails and text messages released as part of the lawsuit reveal that many program hosts and company executives disbelieved the claims of election fraud that their network was airing. But some at Fox were concerned that Trump-supporting viewers would move to other channels if Fox journalists contradicted the false claims. Here’s a look at what Tucker Carlson said about Trump in private texts vs. what he told his viewers.