Did Fox think this through?
I’m serious. Look, we all know Trump has all kinds of trouble getting great legal representation but Rupert Murdoch and the folks in his empire pay their freaking legal bills. And they’ve had plenty of top-notch representation over the years. Hell, they’ve needed it and more than once! Still, I have to wonder how much thought went into clearing Carlson’s Monday night show for the air.
As I write this Dominion has a motion for summary judgment pending in its lawsuit against Fox. For those who need a refresher, a motion for a judge to grant a summary judgment is actually a fairly common thing. In criminal trials it’s almost automatic that the defense will claim prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof and ask the judge for a dismissal. It’s also common in civil cases – one side or the other (or both) will say the various filings prove their side of the case and no trial is needed, or if a trial is underway there’s no need for it to go to a jury. Most of the time these requests fail. But not always.
Anyone following the Dominion v Fox case knows one devastating (for Fox) revelation after another has come out against Fox. Their own internal communications – texts, emails, memos and now we know recorded video conference proves that not only did Fox on-air “talent” (what all networks call the folks you see on TV) but executives knew all along that The Big Lie including accusations against Dominion were lies. AND that the people they were putting on the air were lying. AND that the “talent” as well as the executives believed those guests trashing Dominion and/or promoting the overall Big Lie were lying, and if not crazy then full of squishy brown organic matter.
Nothing is certain once things get into a courtroom but there are plenty of knowledgeable legal experts who think Dominion has a decent chance of winning their request for Summary Judgement on the Actual Damages of over one billion dollars. As for Punitive Damages, the part that could actually hurt Fox (a billion or so is just tip money to them) Dominion still wants to go to trial and let a jury decide on that part.
But here’s why I’m writing this: Fox’s lies about Dominion are part of The Big Lie they’ve been selling (to please Trump and hold on to viewers) but only part. Still, the two are inter-related and Carlson’s Monday night stunt (with more to follow) is a massive distortion of the events of Jan. 6 and his comments are flat-out lies. He knows it. Fox executives know it. Every sane and objective person knows it. I’ll bet even some Fox viewers know it too but not wanting to admit how badly they’ve been suckered are gleeful over what Carlson has done and intends to keep doing. They can go… “See? SEE? Here’s proof there was NO insurrection. NO riot. It was peaceful protest!”
Here’s why it matters. At a time when Fox is facing summary judgment over knowingly lying to its viewers (to get ratings and therefore more money by keeping Trump and his MAGA followers happy) Carlson/Fox has just done it again. In Prime Time! As I said, it’s technically part of the specific attacks on Dominion but in court it shows a “pattern and practice” of lying. I for one find the timing more than curious. I find it incredibly stupid on Fox’s part. I’m not a lawyer so I’m uncertain about the rules but I can’t help but imagine Dominion’s lawyers spent all of today crafting an addendum to their request for Summary Judgement noting the distortions and outright lies in Carlson’s show, the fact that Fox allowed it to be broadcast and that it proves a “pattern and practice” of knowingly lying to its viewers! Add that in with a (one of the few conservative ones) in California terminating its Dominion contract last week (can anyone say Actual Damages?) and again I wonder what possess Fox to air that Carlson load of crap.
I mean, why not just walk into the courtroom, lay their “junk” on the table and tell the judge to come down off the bench and smash it with the gavel?
Well, that’s the gist of what I wanted to convey. That maybe Fox got so caught up in some internals about their ratings, or needed a quick boost in viewers/ad revenue and lost sight of the bigger picture. I’m cool with anyone who stops reading right here. Lots of folks don’t have time to read longer, more detailed articles. So again, I’ve made my main point and if you have other stuff to do thanks for reading.
This is me however and those who read my stuff know I like to dig into the details, so for those who want to drill down for details and context read on:
In Sullivan, SCOTUS set a high bar when it comes to suing public figures and for that matter news outlets. Actual Malice, knowingly saying things known to be untrue and that will cause actual damage is a tough standard few have met. So much so most of the time those hurt by journalistic malpractice don’t even bother to try. I’ll talk more about this later but first bear with me.
Let’s break this down. Trump’s ego couldn’t take getting beaten in 2020. It wasn’t a complete surprise when it happened. Long before the primaries even began the one person Trump FEARED having to run against was… Joe Biden! Trump’s second worst nightmare came true and Biden became the Democratic nominee. Well before the election it was clear, and even Trump during those dark hours of the night alone with his fears knew it too that he was going to lose. “Bigly” in fact. Sure enough, Trump’s worst nightmare came through and he did in fact lose. However, for someone with an ego like Trump’s being branded a LOSER was something he could not and would not accept.
Whether he truly knew he was going to get whupped or was afraid the odds were too strong of it happening he and his minions started prepping the ground well ahead of election day. Strategies were formed to deny Biden winning/Trump losing. And yes, those strategies included roping in Trump friendly “news” outlets and talking heads to help sell what would become known (oh so accurately) as The Big Lie.
That included Fox News and both the morning couch potatoes as well as the hosts of the three hour White Power Hour – the evening ‘Opinion “Journalism”‘ hosts of Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and of course Tucker Carlson. (Other hosts like Dobbs, Pirro and Barteromo too were in on it) And boy did they ever sell the lie! At the outset there was something of a flap due to Fox having the best (WTF? Fox?) statistical model and accurately calling Arizona for Biden. Some of Fox kinda, sorta tried to play it straight which lasted less than a week. Fox viewers were furious and started migrating to Newsmax which had an actual presence at the time and was poised (again, back then) for bigger things. So the powers-that-be at Fox, alarmed by that quickly got everyone on the same page.
The page the big three of the weekday evening lineup were on. (And some of those others I mentioned) Selling The Big Lie and stamping out ANY internal dissent, up to and including taking action against those who resisted and wanted to be truthful. Even the actual News division, the hard conservative but with just enough “both sider” veneer including Chris Wallace went along with refusing to admit the full and complete truth. Hell, Wallace, even when everyone else (including at the Fox election desk) had called Nevada and therefore the election Wallace balked at admitting it!
But, and this is huge the discovery in Dominion’s lawsuit proves that from the very beginning even the evening hosts including one Tucker Carlson knew it was all b.s. That Trump had lost. That all of nonsense Trump’s people were spouting was bogus and even crazy. That the people they were allowing on their shows to promote it were lying. Hucksters. Con Artists. The Fox executives and talking heads communicated privately, and worse for them (now) in writing how bat-sh!t insane some of these people and their “legal theories” were but put them on the air anyway.
More importantly the talking heads didn’t challenge the lies. Instead, they lamented how poor Trump and conservatives were being screwed over by electoral “fraud” knowing full well their guests were lying to their audience! Day after day and multiple times most days various Fox shows/hosts promoted The Big Lie and attacked Dominion Voting Systems. (Smartmatic too) Now, one has to keep in mind Dominion has one purpose – it makes, sells and maintains machines that count ballot in elections. That’s it. If you harm their reputation you cost them new sales, and the continuation of contracts to maintain their machines. That of course harms their bottom line, and when you have just the one product/reason for existing threatens your actual ability to stay in business.
When you knowingly spread lies that harm someone or some business, you open yourself up to liability.
As I noted, for public figures/companies, “celebrities” for lack of a better way of putting it what the Sullivan ruling created was as I said an extremely high bar to win damages in court. You have to have proof, really rock solid proof that the person/entity that told lies about you knew they were telling lies, and didn’t care what damage it caused. Even that may not be enough. But there’s more. Fox had a financial interest in both initially telling lies about Dominion Voting Systems, but continuing to do so. Again, and again and again. Their own internal deliberations, only some of which have been made public prove they knew telling the truth would cost them views. That it would cost them advertising dollars and lesson their profits. Dominion has proof Fox saw immediately that being truthful would cost them views and money, so they chose to lie and keep up or perhaps even increase their profits.
They chose to continue lying about Dominion to strengthen their bottom line. it really is that simple. And appalling. Watergate’s infamous Deep Throat never actually said “Follow the money” but the sentiment was there. And it holds in this case. It’s all been about money. And as I said, Dominion has proof Fox talked about all this internally and chose profits over truth. Lies over the damage they were doing to Dominion (and Smartmatic). And the country and even democracy around the world for that matter.
Even AFTER the horrors of January 6 Fox, whose own talking heads were aghast as it was going on (privately of course!) have kept up the attacks. So again I make the point it was because telling the truth would cost Fox money, and when their own contracts came up for renewal them too!
It’s common knowledge that Fox’s “Opinion Hosts” have gotten away with so much over their time on the air because the network succeeded in court in labeling them not as “news” but “opinion” journalists. And the Sullivan ruling has given them and other sleazebags a thick set of armor to distort and even lie. Fox however is the biggest of platforms to day in and day out, week in and week out, month by month and year after year inject their brand of distortions and outright lies into American’s consciousness. With their resources trying to sue them would be a daunting proposition for almost any person or corporation.
But Dominion apparently decided to try. Perhaps hubris finally caught up to Fox. They probably assumed things would never get to the discovery phase, and even after their attempts to get the lawsuit dismissed failed they assumed Dominion would be open to a settlement. One that would pad the bank accounts of the top folks there, although the regular employees would be screwed. Oh, it would also include a non-disclosure (of the terms) clause of course!
Dominion has doggedly said NO to settling.
Personally, I think Murdoch would thank his lucky stars if Dominion would accept a personal check of FIVE BILLION dollars to settle right now and drop all current action against the network and it’s employees. And promise not to sue in the future. Hell, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if such discussions haven’t taken place more than one.
But here’s the thing: the discovery Dominion has obtained is a literal treasure trove. It’s worth billions to them because that’s what it’s ultimately going to cost Fox. Here’s what we know. So far:
BEFORE the election Fox knew Trump would contest if if as expected he lost. They also knew some of what was planned because some of their folks were privy to some of the discussions.
Fox knew as early as election night Trump had lost. That once all the votes were counted Trump would lose and that it wouldn’t even be close either in popular vote or the Electoral College.
Fox was plugged in to GOP watchdog operations searching for “voter fraud” and knew there was no “there” there.
Fox as I said has always had good lawyers, and they knew off the bat that those lawsuits Trump was filing wouldn’t go anywhere.
More importantly, Fox executives and talking heads knew early on that the people from Trump himself to the Sydney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman et al types were hyping were b.s. Both the legal theories and the people touting them. Fox knew it. Worse (for them) they talked about what a load of crap it all was and how crazy the people trying to promote it were – albeit internally. But they still put these people on Tv, and put up NO resistance to what they knew was b.s. coming from people they knew were stuffed chock full of it!
If that isn’t “Reckless disregard for the facts” that amount to “Malice” as set forth in Sullivan then nothing is. Dominion has Rupert Murdoch’s and Fox’s testicles in a vise and is turning the crank tighter, painfully squeezing them with each new filing/release of information obtained in discovery.
So I close with how I began. What the hell was Fox thinking in allowing Carlson to broadcast what he did.. while a request for Summary Judgement against them for lying is pending?