Fox News agreed to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems, settling a lawsuit brought by a company that was repeatedly smeared on air with fantastical claims of helping to rig a presidential election and marking an abrupt end to one of the most consequential and closely watched media cases in decades.
Fox agreed to a $787.5 million settlement in the suit, which had sought $1.6 billion in damages over recklessly airing false election claims and conspiracy theories in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.
The agreement lets the cable broadcaster avoid a painful trial over 2020 election lies and brings an abrupt end to one of the most significant media cases in recent decades, one that hinged on false claims about a presidential election.
With the settlement, Rupert Murdoch, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and other Fox personalities have all avoided being called to testify about their intentional on-air lies amplifying the false assertions of 2020 election loser Donald Trump.
The eye-popping figure — the largest publicly disclosed monetary settlement ever in an American defamation action — averted what could have been an even costlier outcome for Fox and its parent company, Fox Corp., had the suit gone to a jury. Dominion had sought $1.6 billion, and several pretrial rulings had strengthened its claims.
The settlement agreement came with only a grudging acknowledgment by Fox that it had been wrong in repeatedly airing false statements that backed up President Donald Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud after the 2020 election. Fox’s hosts and guests had repeatedly depicted Dominion, the maker of voting machines and software, as at the heart of a conspiracy to change votes to hand Joe Biden the election.
Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson, speaking outside court, announced the settlement amount of $787,500,000, the second largest in US history. “The truth matters, lies have consequences,” he said.
Despite acknowledging the Delaware court found some of its election reporting to be false, Fox News stopped short of formally apologizing.
The trial was set to begin at 1.30 pm with opening statements, but the start was delayed for nearly two and a half hours as attorneys for both parties engaged in last-minute negotiations.
Just before 4 pm, Judge Eric Davis called the jury into the courtroom to tell them they were excused and: “The case has been resolved and it’s been resolved because of you.”
“I think that it’s a big step forward in democracy if our system can send a signal that if media companies lie — whoever they are or whatever channel they’re on — and they do so knowingly, they will be prepared to pay a very high price,” said Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos.
Despite its history of malignant lies, Fox was able to say, “This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”