Minutes before trial, Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems, Tuesday, reached a $787 million settlement on a consequential two-year battle that tested First Amendment protections for media companies and exposed the right-wing network’s role in airing lies about a stolen election.
The payout is the largest defamation settlement in US history regarding a media company.
Dominion Voting Systems originally asked for $1.6 billion and accused the right-wing network of knowingly pushing false conspiracy theories that the voting machine company rigged the 2020 presidential election.
The jury was already sworn in when the deal was reached. Fox news stars like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and even the network’s founder Rupert Murdock were scheduled to testify.
“Today’s settlement of $787 million, five-hundred thousand dollars represents vindication and accountability. Lies have consequences,” Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson said outside the courthouse in a news conference after the deal was announced by the judge. “Today represents a ringing endorsement for truth and for democracy.”
“Fox has admitted telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to our company and nothing can make up for that,” said Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos. “Truthful reporting is essential. We’re grateful to the court for allowing the process for the truth to come out.”
Fox will not have to make any retractions or on-air admission that they spread lies regarding Dominion. The network released the following statement.
“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. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News Network (colloquially Dominion v. Fox) was a defamation lawsuit filed in March 2021 by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News Channel and its corporate parent Fox Corporation, where they alleged that several of its program hosts and guests made false allegations that Dominion's voting machines had been rigged to steal the 2020 United States presidential election from then-president Donald Trump. Dominion sought $1.6 billion in damages and settled for $787.5 million. Fox News argued that it was reporting "pure opinion" regarding what others were saying and was thus protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964). During pre-trial discovery, Fox News internal communications were released, indicating that prominent hosts and top executives were aware the network was reporting lies but continued doing so for financial reasons and viewership retention.
Dominion focused on allegations made between November 2020 and January 2021 by hosts Maria Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, and Jeanine Pirro. Guests who often appeared with these hosts included Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, both of whom have also been sued individually by Dominion in federal court.
Delaware Superior Court judge Eric M. Davis ruled in a March 2023 summary judgment that many of the statements Fox News made about Dominion were false and ordered the case to trial to determine if the network had acted with actual malice. Jury selection for the trial began on April 13, 2023, and the trial began on April 18, with several prominent Fox News personalities and senior executives expected to testify. The trial had been delayed one day as Fox News made a late push to settle the case out of court.