Fox News will be forced to defend its promotion of the “Big Lie” in court, as a Delaware judge ruled that a jury would need to decide whether there was “actual malice” in how the network let election disinformation loose upon its millions of viewers.
On Friday, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled that Dominion Voting Systems has not yet proved Fox acted with libelous intent by promoting the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. At the same time, the judge ruled against Fox News and Fox Corporation’s attempts to quash the lawsuit. He further gave Dominion the benefit that Fox’s statements, by themselves, could constitute defamation.
Dominion kicked up the hornet’s nest when it brought its $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News back in 2021. The company has said it’s seeking recompense for lost profits due to the lies spread about the company. Dominion has filed similar lawsuits against ultra-conservative networks like Newsmax and OAN.
Davis wrote that Dominion has met the burden of proof to show that all of Fox’s promoted statements about the voting machine company were all lies. The judge added the evidence is “CRYSTAL clear [emphasis his] that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” A trial is set to start sometime in April.
The court held two hearings earlier this week to discuss the matter. In its summary judgment request, Fox News has tried to argue that its promotion of the big lie was just common journalist practice by discussing the election allegations coming from Trump. The network further claimed its reporting was protected under the First Amendment, and that there’s precedent protecting news sites from allegations later proven false.
On the flip side, Dominion argued Fox was actively promoting the big lie by publishing and promoting top election deniers.
Defamation suits like this hang on the thin thread of proving that one side had “actual malice” in its speech, meaning it acted knowing the information was false or acting with reckless disregard to a statement’s truth. It’s an incredibly hard burden of proof for plaintiffs in defamation cases, though at least Dominion has a lot of ammunition to fire at Fox, mostly from hosts’ and guests’ own lips.
The document retreads much of what came out in texts and emails from Fox executives and hosts. The main faces at Fox News regularly complained about Trump and the election conspiracy, calling it “shockingly reckless” and complaining about election conspiracists like Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani. In records from Fox Corporation Chair Rupert Murdoch’s deposition, the venerable scion of conservative media around the globe said he could have stopped Fox News from bringing on the election conspiracists, but chose not to.