Five of Diamonds: Jeanine Pirro, on Jan. 6 insurrection: “Deplorable, reprehensible, outright criminal”

Pirro imagines barbarians storming the White House gates:
“The White House stands alone like an ancient walled city with barbarians storming the gates, looking to annihilate the man the American people put in that house in 2016.”  Pirro, “Radicals, Resistance, and Revenge: The Left’s Plot to Remake America” (Center Street 2019)
Pirro sees barbarians storming the U.S. Capitol gates:
“I want to be clear.  The actions at the United States Capitol three days ago were deplorable, reprehensible, outright criminal.”, Jan 10, 2021


And yet Pirro remained an insistent, very public perpetrator of the Big Lie of Election Fraud . . . 

Smartmatics, a voting technology company, is suing Fox News, Pirro and two other Fox hosts and two former lawyers for former President Donald Trump — Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell — for $2.7 billion, charging that the defendants conspired to spread false claims that the company helped “steal” the United States presidential election. ​

​The complaint alleges that Fox hosts Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo also directly benefitted from their involvement in the conspiracy. The lawsuit alleges that Fox went along with the “well-orchestrated dance” due to pressure from newcomer outlets such as Newsmax and the One America News Network, which were stealing away conservative, pro-Trump viewers. Smartmatic’s participation in the 2020 election was restricted to Los Angeles County, which votes heavily Democratic.


Rupert Murdoch to be deposed in Smartmatic defamation case against Fox


NEW YORK, Nov 28 (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch is set to be questioned under oath on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of voting technology company Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp (FOXA.O) over coverage of debunked vote-rigging claims involving the 2020 U.S. presidential election, a person familiar with the matter said.

Florida-based Smartmatic is seeking damages from Fox Corp, Fox News and five individuals: Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who were lawyers for Republican former President Donald Trump; and Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as former Fox host Lou Dobbs.

Smartmatic alleges in its lawsuit filed in state court in New York that the defendants knowingly spread false claims that the company’s software was used to flip votes in favor of Democrat Joe Biden and against Trump.

A New York state appeals court in February rejected Fox’s bid to dismiss the case, finding that Smartmatic had alleged in “detailed fashion” how Fox “effectively endorsed and participated” in defamation.

Fox Corp and Fox News in April settled for $787.5 million another defamation lawsuit, brought by voting technology firm Dominion Voting Systems. It was the largest-ever defamation settlement publicly announced by an American media company, according to legal experts. Rupert Murdoch sat for a deposition in that case as well.

Smartmatic lawyers during the deposition may ask Murdoch about his private opinions about the 2020 election and how closely he followed Fox’s coverage as they seek to establish that he could have reined in the network’s anchors but chose not to.

Murdoch said during his deposition in the Dominion case that he believed the election was fair. He acknowledged having concerns about Fox’s coverage of the debunked voting fraud claims but said he did not play an active role in shaping it.

Dominion had accused Fox of ruining its business by airing claims that its machines were used to rig the 2020 election. Fox said in a statement at the time of the settlement that it acknowledged “the court’s ruling finding certain claims about Dominion to be false” and that the settlement reflected “Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”


The Untold Story of How Jeanine Pirro Failed Up at Fox News

In this week’s edition of Confider, we reveal the previously unreported story behind Judge Jeanine’s “promotion”.

Fox News star Jeanine Pirro failed her way up into a coveted seat on the most-watched cable-news show in America. 

These are some of the revelations unearthed in Brian Stelter’s new book, Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy, due out next Tuesday, parts of which were shared exclusively with Confider.

Confider readers may recall how the blustery former judge was named in the Dominion lawsuit as being a key booster of unhinged election lies on Fox’s air. Less than a year after the suit was filed, Pirro’s weekend show, Justice With Judge Jeanine, was ended and she was named as a permanent co-host on The Five, Fox’s 5 p.m. panel gabfest.

The move was widely viewed as a promotion for Pirro—indeed, she instantly became a fixture on what is now the highest-viewed show in all of cable news—but as it turns out, her fancy new gig was supposed to be a demotion.

Stelter reports: “Pirro was a problem,” two sources said, using the same language and citing what Dominion found through the discovery process, namely that Pirro’s stubborn, slavish Trumpiness clashed with Fox execs who’d grown tired of her histrionic shenanigans. She submitted drafts of her opening monologue ahead of time, but when higher-ups
dared to suggest tweaks, she was liable to accuse them of censorship. She caused headaches week after week. To put it bluntly, “nobody wanted to deal with her,” one of the sources said. Her own executive
producer called her a “reckless maniac.”

“[Suzanne] Scott had an open conservative seat on The Five, so by moving Pirro there, she solved two problems at once. Pirro was far easier to manage on a five-person talk show—she wasn’t writing monologues or picking guests anymore. She was also reaching a larger audience, five days a week, than she was on Saturdays. But it was pointed out to me that The Five is not the cushiest job for a seventy-something former prosecutor to hold. Pirro was now in the studio five days a week and sharing the
stage with the likes of the grandstanding Jesse Watters. Solo-hosting once a week was definitely easier for her—but harder on the managers and lawyers.”


Judge in Dominion Case Suggests Fox News Has a ‘Dobbs Problem’

Judge Eric Davis appeared skeptical of some of the Fox team’s claims, asking, “How can you be neutral if you’re knowingly doing false things?”

The Delaware judge presiding over a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by a voting machine company against Fox News said Tuesday in a pretrial hearing that he hadn’t made up his mind to rule in either side’s favor, but ultimately sounded unconvinced by some of the arguments made by lawyers for the conservative network.

“I need to be educated,” Judge Eric Davis said at the start of the summary judgment hearing, according to the Associated Press. “I haven’t pre-decided this.”

Batting away Dominion Voting Systems’ charge that the network knowingly amplified false claims of a stolen election, Fox’s lawyers argued that its hosts had simply been reporting the newsworthy fact that then-President Donald Trump was alleging election fraud, without editorializing on his accuracy.

“We never reported [the claims] to be true,” network lawyer Erin Murphy said. “All we ever did was provide viewers the true fact that these were allegations that were being made.”

But as she attempted to parse the difference between the standard of “actual malice” and the legal doctrine of “neutral reportage,” Davis demurred.

“To me, it doesn’t seem intellectually honest that you apply actual malice and say there’s neutral reporting privilege,” he said, according to Reuters. “How can you be neutral if you’re knowingly doing false things?”

He repeated the question—“How can that be neutral?”—when Murphy argued that host Jeanine Pirro had not defamed Dominion during a broadcast by telling viewers in November 2020 that “for the sake of our Republic, we have an obligation to get honest and truthful answers” about potentially rigged voting machines.

“That last statement makes it sound like [Pirro] has no knowledge one way or the other that Dominion had an algorithm that flipped [votes],” Davis added, according to The Washington Post. (A brief unsealed as part of the lawsuit earlier this year revealed that many Fox executives and hosts privately ridiculed and expressed doubts about the claims they were airing.)

[Boldface added]

What Fox News Hosts Said Privately vs. Publicly About Voter Fraud

Two days after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson was furious.

Fox News viewers were abandoning the network for Newsmax and One America News, two conservative rivals, after Fox declared that Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Arizona, a crucial swing state.

In a text message with his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, Mr. Carlson appeared livid that viewers were turning against the network. The message was among those released last week as part of a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox. Dominion, an elections technology company, has sued Fox News for defamation.

A graphic shows a text exchange from Carlson to Pfeiffer.
Carlson to Pfeiffer
We worked really hard to build what we have … It enrages me.

At the same time, Mr. Carlson and his broadcasting colleagues expressed grave doubts about an unfounded narrative rapidly gaining momentum among their core audience: that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Democrats through widespread voter fraud. The belief was promoted by then-President Trump and a coalition of lawyers, lawmakers and influencers, though they produced no evidence to support their assertions.

Many hosts, producers and executives privately expressed skepticism about those claims, even as they gave them significant airtime, according to private messages revealed last week by Dominion. What they said in those messages often differed significantly from what Fox hosts said in public, though they weren’t always contradictory.

Two days after the election, Mr. Pfeiffer said that voices on the right were “reckless demagogues,” according to a text message. Mr. Carlson replied that his show was “not going to follow them.”

A graphic shows a text exchange between Pfeiffer and Carlson.
Said privately on Nov. 5, 2020
Pfeiffer to Carlson
It’s a hard needle to thread, but I really think many on ‘our side’ are being reckless demagogues right now.
Carlson to Pfeiffer
Of course they are. We’re not going to follow them.

But he did follow them. The same day, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Mr. Carlson expressed some doubts about the voter fraud assertions before insisting that at least some of the claims were “credible.”

A graphic of a text exchange, followed by a video clip of Carlson on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Said publicly on Nov. 5, 2020
Carlson: “Not all the claims are credible — some are. … Serious questions about the legitimacy of ballots remained unanswered.”

In the days and weeks that followed, Mr. Carlson was one of several Fox News hosts who repeatedly took a different tone when speaking to viewers on air than when they were talking privately.

The private conversations pose a serious legal threat to the nation’s most-watched cable news network. Dominion has obtained thousands of emails and text messages from Fox employees as part of its $1.6 billion suit. The messages, taken as a whole, are at the core of Dominion’s case.

Fox News has argued in court that the First Amendment protects its right to broadcast false claims if they are inherently newsworthy — and in this case that there was nothing more newsworthy at the time than a sitting president’s allegations of widespread voter fraud.

In a statement, the company said that “the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution” and protected by legal precedent. It added, “Dominion has mischaracterized the record, cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context, and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law.”

But if a jury looks at the messages from Fox hosts, guests and executives and concludes that people inside the network knew what they were putting on the air was false, it could find Fox liable and reward Dominion with substantial financial damages.

On Nov. 7, 2020, Mr. Carlson told Mr. Pfeiffer that claims about manipulated software were “absurd.” Mr. Pfeiffer replied later that there was not enough evidence of fraud to swing the election.

A graphic of a text exchange between Pfeiffer and Carlson.
Said privately on Nov. 7, 2020
Carlson to Pfeiffer
The software shit is absurd.
Nov. 8, 2020
Pfeiffer to Carlson
I dont think there is evidence of voter fraud that swung the election.

But during his broadcast on Nov. 9, Mr. Carlson devoted time to various theories, suggesting there could be merit to claims about software manipulation. “We don’t know, we have to find out,” he said.

A video clip of Carlson on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Said publicly on Nov. 9, 2020
Carlson: “We don’t know anything about the software that many say was rigged. … And you are not crazy for knowing it. You are right.”

Mr. Carlson also privately criticized Sidney Powell, a lawyer and conspiracy theorist who was gaining traction among the far right for her involvement in several lawsuits aimed at challenging the election results, the court filings show. Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, two hosts on Fox Business, a sister channel to Fox News that is also part of Dominion’s lawsuit, repeatedly invited Ms. Powell onto their shows as an expert on voter fraud claims.

A graphic of a text message from Carlson.
Said privately on Nov. 16, 2020
Carlson to Pfeiffer
Sidney Powell is lying

Mr. Pfeiffer told Mr. Carlson over text message that election fraud claims, like those being made by Ms. Powell, “need to be backed up.” He warned that President Biden faced being undermined if he was eventually inaugurated.

Mr. Carlson agreed, the filings show.

A graphic of a text message from Carlson.
Said privately on Nov. 18, 2020
Carlson to Pfeiffer
Yep. It’s bad.

The next day, Mr. Carlson eviscerated Ms. Powell in a brutal 10-minute monologue, dissecting her claims as unreliable and unproven. He said the show had repeatedly asked her for evidence and, “when we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her.”

A video of Carlson from “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Said publicly on Nov. 19, 2020
Carlson: “She never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one.”

In the same monologue, however, Mr. Carlson also gave some credence to Ms. Powell’s claims, saying that “we don’t dismiss anything anymore” and that he is “hopeful” she will come forward with evidence.

A video of Carlson from “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Said publicly on Nov. 19, 2020
Carlson: “We did not dismiss any of it. We don’t dismiss anything anymore.”

Viewers expressed outrage at Mr. Carlson for challenging a prominent Trump ally. And Mr. Trump’s associates quickly jumped to her defense.

Privately, Mr. Carlson continued to criticize Ms. Powell, calling her claims “shockingly reckless.” Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Carlson both privately called her a “nut.” Laura Ingraham, who is the host of a 10 p.m. show, and Raj Shah, a senior vice president at the Fox Corporation, the network’s corporate parent, were equally incredulous.

A graphic of several text messages from Raj Shah, Pfeiffer, Carlson and Ingraham.
Said privately on Nov. 22, 2020
Shah to Pfeiffer
so many people openly denying the obvious that Powell is clearly full of it.
Pfeiffer to Shah
She is a [expletive] nutcase.
Carlson to Ingraham
[Powell is] a nut, as you said at the outset. It totally wrecked my weekend. Wow… I had to try to make the WH disavow her, which they obviously should have done long before
Ingraham to Carlson
No serious lawyer could believe what they were saying.
Carlson to Ingraham
But they said nothing in public. Pretty disgusting.

The next day, Mr. Carlson appeared to soften his public stance, suggesting that some of the criticisms about voting machines had merit and concluding, “This is a real issue no matter who raises it.”

A video from “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Said publicly on Nov. 23, 2020
Carlson: “This is a real issue no matter who raises it or who tries to dismiss it out of hand as a conspiracy theory.”

Mr. Carlson was far from alone in speaking about Ms. Powell in a different way in private than on the air.

Internally, anchors like Bret Baier appeared surprised to find Ms. Powell getting significant airtime on shows by Ms. Bartiromo and Mr. Dobbs, the court filings show. On Nov. 6, 2020, after someone forwarded Mr. Dobbs’s interview with Ms. Powell, Mr. Baier replied:

A graphic of a text message from Baier.
“What is this? Oh man.”

The private messages also showed that Ms. Powell was in direct communication with Ms. Bartiromo and Mr. Dobbs, and that she revealed one of the sources for her outrageous claims. The court filings showed that Ms. Powell forwarded an email about voter fraud to Ms. Bartiromo from the source, a woman who claimed, among other things, that “the Wind tells me I’m a ghost.”

If Ms. Bartiromo was deterred by the unusual email, it was not evident to Fox News viewers. Ms. Powell was interviewed on the show the next day.

A video from “Mornings with Maria Bartiromo.”
Said publicly on Nov. 8, 2020
Bartiromo: “We talked about the Dominion software. I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that.”

Consternation over Ms. Powell grew behind the scenes at Fox News as her lawsuits were repeatedly dismissed by courts and her promises to produce concrete evidence of widespread voter fraud never materialized. Yet she was still getting airtime, and senior executives at the network appeared concerned.

Gary Schreier, a senior vice president of programming at Fox Business, said in a private message to Lauren Petterson, the president of Fox Business, that Ms. Bartiromo “has GOP conspiracy theorists in her ear and they use her for their message sometimes.”

Days later, Mr. Schreier received an email from Dominion Voting Systems containing links that refuted Ms. Powell’s voter fraud claims.

That night, Mr. Dobbs interviewed Ms. Powell about Dominion’s comments. But he also used the interview to reinforce her claims of fraud. Mr. Dobbs concluded that “this looks like the effort to carry out an endgame” against Mr. Trump. Ms. Bartiromo interviewed Ms. Powell again two days later.

A video from “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and “Mornings with Maria Bartiromo.”
Said publicly on Nov. 13, 2020
Dobbs: “This is the culmination of what has been over a four-year effort to overthrow this president.”
Said publicly on Nov. 15, 2020
Bartiromo: “Attorney Sidney Powell is leading the charge against Dominion and she says she has enough evidence of fraud to launch a massive criminal investigation.”

Several Fox News hosts and producers were criticizing Ms. Powell, including John Fawcett, a producer on Mr. Dobbs’s show, who said he believed Ms. Powell was “doing LSD and cocaine and heroin and shrooms.”

A text message from Ingraham.
Said privately on Nov. 15, 2020
Ingraham to Hannity and Carlson
Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry but she is.

But those criticisms never made it to air. Instead, when Ms. Powell appeared again on Mr. Dobbs’s show days later, she was hailed as a “great American” and “one of the country’s leading appellate attorneys.”

A video from “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”
Said publicly on Nov. 19, 2020
Dobbs: “Our election is run by companies, the ownership of which we don’t know. Sidney Powell is among those trying to change all that.”

By late November, Mr. Fawcett became increasingly critical of Ms. Powell, according to the court filings. He concluded that she was not verifying her claims. On Nov. 27, 2020, he wrote that her lawsuits were “complete bs.”

Mr. Fawcett also told Mr. Dobbs that Mr. Trump’s legal team had disavowed her. Mr. Dobbs replied that he didn’t know what Ms. Powell was “thinking or doing, Or why!”

A graphic of text messages between Fawcett and Dobbs.
Said privately on Nov. 22, 2020
Fawcett to Dobbs
Could be losing her mind
Fawcett to Dobbs
I just don’t think she is verifying anything she is saying.

But over the next several days, Ms. Powell was invited back by Mr. Dobbs, who echoed her claims that “electoral fraud” was perpetrated by electronic voting machines, “prominently Dominion.”

Two videos from “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”
Said publicly on Nov. 24, 2020
Dobbs: “I think many Americans have given no thought to electoral fraud that would be perpetrated through electronic voting, that is these machines … prominently Dominion, at least in the suspicions of a lot of Americans.”
Said publicly on Nov. 30, 2020
Dobbs: “We have, across almost every state, whether it’s Dominion … whatever the voting machine company is — no one knows their ownership, has no idea what’s going on in those servers.”

The next month, after Smartmatic, a competitor of Dominion Voting Systems, sent a letter to Fox News signaling that litigation was imminent, the network put together a video package of an election expert debunking the conspiracy theories that suggested the company’s technology allowed the presidential vote to be rigged. It aired on the programs hosted by Mr. Dobbs, Ms. Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro. [Boldface added]

On Feb. 5, 2021, one day after Smartmatic filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox, Fox Business canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” At the time, Fox said it regularly reviewed its lineup. “Plans have been in place to launch new formats as appropriate postelection, including on Fox Business,” the network said.


Peeling Fox’s Onion of Hypocrisy

Feb. 17, 2023
Fox News has, arguably, had worse days than Thursday. But not many. And the worst is undoubtedly yet to come.Do yourself a favor and take some time to peruse the massive email dump the News Gods in their beneficence granted us last night. The voting machine company, Dominion, is suing Fox for the Murdoch First Born and a gadzillion dollars (actually $1.6 billion) for its election-related fabrications and lies.Yesterday, we got a look at some of the evidence Dominion has gathered. In court filings seeking a summary judgment, the company laid out in granular detail its case that “literally dozens of people with editorial responsibility—from the top of the organization to the producers of specific shows to the hosts themselves—acted with actual malice.”It is like peeling an onion of duplicity, hypocrisy, and journalistic malpractice.

One dazzling detail: “[Sean] Hannity and [Tucker] Carlson tried to get Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich fired for fact-checking a Trump tweet about Dominion and noting that there was no evidence of votes being destroyed.”“Please get her fired. Seriously… What the fuck?” Carlson texted Ingraham and Hannity on Nov. 12, 2020. “It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.

Not a joke at all.The Dominion filing is filled with quotes that document what the Fox folks knew about the utter bulls*t they were broadcasting and when they knew it:Each circumstantial factor cuts strongly in Dominion’s favor. But here, the words of multiple Fox employees provide overwhelming direct evidence of actual malice. In addition to the evidence cited above, the excerpts below feature just some of the additional examples showing Fox employees knew at the time that these claims—and the guests promoting them—were:

  • “ludicrous” –Tucker Carlson [11/20/20]
  • “totally off the rails” –Tucker Carlson [12/24/20]
  • “F’ing lunatics” –Sean Hannity [12/22/20]
  • “nuts” –Dana Perino [11/16/20]
  • “complete bs” –Producer John Fawcett to Lou Dobbs [11/27/20]
  • “kooky” –Maria Bartiromo, regarding email received from Powell [11/07/20]
  • “MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS” –Raj Shah, Fox Corporation SVP [11/21/20]

There’s a lot more.The bottom-line via MMFA: “Fox knew that it was pushing lies about Dominion and the election, and the network continued to smear the company and spread conspiracy theories anyway.”

Lachlan Murdoch is set to be deposed on Monday, the latest in a flurry of activity in the high-stakes case.


Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation, is expected to be deposed on Monday as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for amplifying bogus claims that rigged machines from Dominion Voting Systems were responsible for Donald J. Trump’s defeat in 2020.

After Mr. Murdoch’s deposition on Monday, lawyers on both sides of the case said they expected one additional senior executive to be questioned by Dominion’s lawyers: Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the Fox Corporation, who founded Fox News with Mr. Ailes more than 25 years ago.

Mr. Murdoch will be the most senior corporate figure within the Fox media empire to face questions under oath in the case so far. And his appearance before Dominion’s lawyers is a sign of how unexpectedly far and fast the lawsuit has progressed in recent weeks — and how contentious it has become.

Fox and Dominion have gone back and forth in Delaware state court since the summer in an escalating dispute over witnesses, evidence and testimony. The arguments point to the high stakes of the case, which will render a judgment on whether the most powerful conservative media outlet in the country intentionally misled its audience and helped seed one of the most pervasive lies in American politics.

Although the law leans in the media’s favor in defamation cases, Dominion has what independent observers have said is an unusually strong case. Day after day, Fox hosts and guests repeated untrue stories about Dominion’s ties to communist regimes and far-fetched theories about how its software enabled enemies of the former president to steal his votes.

“This is a very different kind of case,” said David A. Logan, dean of the Roger Williams School of Law, who has argued in favor of loosening some libel laws. “Rarely do cases turn on a weeks long pattern of inflammatory, provably false, but also oddly inconsistent statements.”

Dominion, in its quest to obtain the private communications of as many low-, mid- and high-level Fox personnel as possible, hopes to prove that people inside the network knew they were disseminating lies. Fox hopes to be able sow doubt about that by showing how its hosts pressed Trump allies for evidence they never produced and that Dominion machines were vulnerable to hacking, even if no hacking took place.

The judge, Eric M. Davis, has ruled in most instances in Dominion’s favor, allowing the voting company to expand the pool of potential evidence it can present to a jury to include text messages from the personal phones of Fox employees and the employment contracts of star hosts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, along with those of Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and her top corporate managers.

The fight over depositions has intensified in recent weeks as lawyers for the two companies sparred over whether Mr. Hannity and another pro-Trump host, Jeanine Pirro, should have to sit for a second round of questioning about messages that Dominion obtained from their phones as part of the discovery process. Fox lawyers have argued that the hosts should not be compelled to testify again, citing the legal protections that journalists have against being forced to reveal confidential sources.

The judge ruled that Dominion’s lawyers could question both Mr. Hannity and Ms. Pirro again but limited the scope of what they could ask. Ms. Pirro’s second deposition was late last month; Mr. Hannity’s has yet to be scheduled.

Some of the biggest names at Fox News have been questioned, or are scheduled to be questioned in the coming days, by lawyers representing Dominion Voting Systems in its $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network, as the election technology company presses ahead with a case that First Amendment scholars say is extraordinary in its scope and significance.

Sean Hannity became the latest Fox star to be called for a deposition by Dominion’s legal team, according to a new filing in Delaware Superior Court. He is scheduled to appear on Wednesday.

Tucker Carlson is set to face questioning on Friday. Lou Dobbs, whose Fox Business show was canceled last year, is scheduled to appear on Tuesday. Others who have been deposed recently include Jeanine Pirro, Steve Doocy and a number of high-level Fox producers, court records show.

People with knowledge of the case, who would speak only anonymously, said they expected that the chief executive of Fox News Media, Suzanne Scott, could be one of the next to be deposed, along with the president of Fox News, Jay Wallace. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, whose family owns Fox, could follow in the coming weeks.

The depositions are among the clearest indications yet of how aggressively Dominion is moving forward with its suit, which is set to go to trial early next year, and of the legal pressure building on the nation’s most powerful conservative media company. There have been no moves from either side to discuss a possible settlement, people with knowledge of the case have said.

Trump issues last-second pardon to Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s tax cheat ex-husband. January 20, 2021 


Trump’s cable cabinet: New texts reveal the influence of Fox hosts on previous White House 

By Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey

 January 9, 2022 

Stephanie Grisham, former press secretary to President Donald Trump, remembers the challenges that came from so many Fox News hosts having the direct number to reach Trump in the White House residence.

“There were times the president would come down the next morning and say, ‘Well, Sean thinks we should do this,’ or, ‘Judge Jeanine thinks we should do this,’ ” said Grisham, referring to Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, both of whom host prime-time Fox News shows. [Boldface added]

Grisham — who resigned from the White House amid the Jan. 6 attacks and has since written a book critical of Trump — said West Wing staffers would simply roll their eyes in frustration as they scrambled to respond to the influence of the network’s hosts, who weighed in on everything from personnel to messaging strategy.

Trump’s staff, allies and even adversaries were long accustomed to playing to an “Audience of One” — a commander in chief with a twitchy TiVo finger and obsessed with cable news.

But text messages — newly released by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection — between Fox News hosts and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, crystallize with new specificity just how tightly Fox News and the White House were entwined during the Trump years, with many of the network’s top hosts serving as a cable cabinet of unofficial advisers.

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As the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol unfolded, Meadows received texts from Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade, as well as Hannity, according to the newly released communications.

“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Ingraham wrote. “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.” Ingraham’s private missives, however, differed starkly from what she said on her show later that evening, when she began whitewashing the violence of the day and claiming the attacks were “antithetical” to the Trump movement.

Kilmeade urged Meadows to get Trump “on TV” to call off the rioters, writing, “Destroying everything you have accomplished.”

And Hannity asked Meadows, “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.”

What Fox News hosts said privately vs. publicly on Jan. 6

In private text messages on Jan. 6, Fox News hosts condemned President Trump’s response to the attack. In public, those same hosts deflected blame from Trump. (JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

‘Everyone tunes in’: Inside Trump’s obsession with cable TV

Other texts released by the committee reveal that Hannity also offered the White House advice in the run-up and aftermath to the attacks that resulted in five deaths. On Dec. 31, 2020, Hannity texted Meadows to warn, “I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told.” And on Jan. 10, 2021 — referring to a conversation he had with Trump himself — Hannity texted Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a close Trump ally, to try to discuss strategies to rein in Trump.

“Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days,” Hannity wrote. “He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”

A former senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details of private discussions, said Trump would also sometimes dial Hannity and Lou Dobbs — whose Fox Business show was canceled in February — into Oval Office staff meetings.

“A lot of it was PR — what he should be saying and how he should be saying it; he should be going harder against wearing masks or whatever,” Grisham said. “And they all have different opinions, too.”

A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Fox News declined to comment.

Michael Pillsbury, an informal Trump adviser, said he realized how powerful Fox News was in Trump’s orbit when the former president began embracing Sidney Powell — an attorney promoting Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud — and other election fabulists after seeing them on Dobbs’s show. Pillsbury added that while it seemed obvious that many of the claims were patently false, Trump was inclined to believe them, in part because he was watching them on TV and had affection for Dobbs in particular.

“It taught me the power of the young producers at Fox, and Fox Business especially,” Pillsbury said. “These young producers who are in their mid-20s. They come out of the conservative movement, they‘ve never been in the government. They are presented with these reckless, fantastical accounts. And they believe them and put them on for ratings.”

Alyssa Farah, a former White House communications director, said the four most influential Fox hosts were Dobbs, Hannity, Igraham, and Pirro — and in the final year of the Trump administration, Hannity was the most influential. Other former top administration officials also mentioned Mark Levin, another Fox News host, and Maria Bartiromo, a Fox Business host, as two other network stars in regular touch with the White House.

From the point of view of the staff, Farah said, the goal was simply to “try to get ahead of what advice you thought he was going to be given by these people” because their unofficial counsel “could completely change his mind on something.”

Fox News hosts urged Trump to stop Jan. 6 violence, texts show

But the relationship was also symbiotic, with White House aides actively trying to influence the network, especially on issues such as spending deals and averting government shutdowns. They knew if they could get Fox hosts to echo their goals on air, that would help sway the president.

Jeff Cohen, author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media,” said the recent text messages represent a “smoking gun.”

If you watch Fox News as much as I do, and I watch a few hours a night, they’re always signaling their close contact with the White House,” Cohen said referring to the Trump era. “But these texts are just the hard evidence. This is just how deeply intertwined the Fox News leadership is with Trump and the Trump White House.”

The problem, he explained, is that even though many of these hosts are opinion journalists, they are still violating public trust by not disclosing the full extent of their relationships with the Trump administration.

“Journalists and media are supposed to be public checks on power, not private advisers to power,” Cohen said. “A commentator is still a journalist, and even if the commentator doesn’t consider him or herself to be a journalist, they still have to tell the public when they played a role in something they’re commenting on.” [Boldface added]

One former top White House official said that the hosts often had more influence with Trump based on what they said on air rather than in their various backchannels to him and his team, in part because the former president was obsessed with the following — and ratings — of their shows.

Former Trump chief of staff John F. Kelly told others in the White House that Dobbs’s show was critical to understanding the president and that Trump’s ideas and feelings about people often originated from that program. Kelly also told colleagues that if Dobbs went after a White House senior staffer, they risked their status falling quickly in the eyes of the former president.

When Kelly could not watch the prime-time Fox shows himself, he would ask other staffers to monitor them, and he would scour the White House call logs for the names of Fox News personalities.

Pirro, several Trump aides said, often became irate if the former president did not appear on her show frequently enough in her view, especially if he had been on Hannity’s show several times prior.

Fox shows were so important to the president that White House staffers were determined to get guests booked on them, even forcing staffers to take weekend shifts appearing on Pirro’s show after Pirro complained she couldn’t get a guest — and the former president also called in himself. [Boldface added]

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Hannity called Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and other Trump allies on a number of occasions to voice his months-long concern that the campaign was heading in the wrong direction and Trump would lose unless he turned around his operation, according to a Republican with direct knowledge of the campaign’s operations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of private discussions. They added that Hannity was much more bullish on his show than in private about Trump’s electoral prospects.

Analysis: Sean Hannity’s Jan. 6 texts and the duplicity they reinforce

As the coronavirus pandemic ramped up in early 2020, a range of Fox News hosts again mobilized to offer backchannel advice to the Trump White House. In March, Tucker Carlson flew to Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., to warn of the seriousness of the virus. Carlson told Trump he might lose the election because of covid-19, while Trump told the prime-time host that the virus wasn’t as deadly as people were claiming. 

In April, Ingraham arrived at the White House with two on-air regulars who are part of what she describes as her “medicine cabinet” for a private meeting with Trump. There, she talked up hydroxychloroquine, a controversial anti-malarial drug which public health experts have concluded is not effective as a covid-19 treatment.

An internal Trump coronavirus response team led by Jared Kushner, the former president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, also prioritized the requests of certain VIPs, including Kilmeade and Pirro. Kilmeade had called two administration officials, for instance, to pass along tips about where to obtain personal protective equipment. And Pirro had repeatedly urged administration officials to send a large quantity of masks to a specific New York hospital. [Boldface added]

At the time, a Fox News spokeswoman said neither host had been aware that their tips were receiving preferential treatment.

Since leaving office, Trump has vociferously complained about Fox, particularly its coverage of the election and what he views as increasingly negative coverage about him. But he has kept in close touch with many of the hosts and even sees some of them at his Florida resort.

The Jan. 6 committee has asked Hannity to cooperate with its investigation, and he has hired Jay Sekulow, a longtime Trump attorney, to represent him. “We are evaluating the letter from the committee. We remain very concerned about the constitutional implications especially as it relates to the First Amendment. We will respond as appropriate,” Sekulow said in a statement last week.

But some former senior White House officials said the texts make the role of Hannity and others seem more outsize than it was. The former president appreciated that the Fox crew was fighting on his behalf on a daily basis, this person said, “but he would not be like, ‘Let me call Larry Kudlow and change our economic plan because Laura Ingraham said that.’ ”

Of course, Kudlow, who now hosts a show on Fox Business, came to Trump’s attention as a top economic adviser in part because of the business show he previously hosted on CNBC.


“Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: Either they win or they were cheated … You can’t love your country only when you win.”

— President Joe Biden