King of Diamonds: Rupert Murdock, Big Media’s Big Lie Enabler

“We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know” about our history, Biden said. “We have to learn what we should know.  We should know about our country.  We should know everything: the good, the bad, the truth of who we are as a nation.  That’s what great nations do, and we are a great nation.”

– President Joe Biden (from Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson)

“When facts arise that cut against their narrative, Fox News simply enlarges their conspiracy theory to accommodate them.”

– Judd Legum, Popular Information

“It’s important not only for Fox News viewers, but for the network’s hosts and top executives, to hear former Vice President Cheney‘s warning about the ongoing danger Donald Trump and his lies pose to our constitutional republic.” 

– Jeremy Adler, spokesman for former Vice President Dick Cheney

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2022/aug/10/dick-cheney-ad-air-fox-news-bringing-stinging-crit/

 

2023:

[Murdoch] built that empire across three continents, helping to shift norms and tastes in journalism, politics and popular culture throughout the English-speaking world. Exhibiting what critics and admirers equally described as a pirate’s sensibility, he acted with a willingness to move fast and break things — before that became trendy.

Those tactics also drew legal trouble and a steady stream of condemnation from opponents and even onetime allies, especially after stars of his Fox News Channel embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 election lies — leading to a $787.5 million legal settlement with Dominion Voting, the company at the center of so much of it. Other, related lawsuits are still pending, including one seeking $2.7 billion in damages.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/21/business/media/rupert-murdoch-fox-retire

 

In addition to the huge financial price, Dominion exacted a difficult admission from Fox News, which acknowledged in a statement that “certain claims” it made about Dominion were false.

A separate lawsuit from voting systems company Smartmatic similarly accuses Fox of maliciously giving Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani a platform to air false claims about the 2020 presidential election.

 

“These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers,” Carlson said.

Rupert Murdoch testified that Fox News hosts ‘endorsed’ stolen election narrative

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/feb/27/rupert-murdoch-deposition-dominion-lawsuit-fox-news?

 

2022:
Only one major cable news channel did not carry the Jan. 6 hearing live: Fox News

 

2020:
Rupert Murdoch doesn’t believe Trump was cheated. But he’s letting Fox personalities spin tales that could permanently harm America. 
Murdoch tries to have it both ways and it’s time for Fox to dispense with the bad-faith, bifurcated approach to the truth it has used for years.

His news operation — the one Trump tweets angrily about — has told its viewers that Trump lost the election and that his complaints about voter fraud are made up.  But in the morning, and at night, Fox allows its most popular stars – Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, the Fox & Friends crew – to peddle lies to its audience under the guise that they’re merely offering their opinions. vox.com, Nov. 12, 2020

From the moment Trump glided down the golden escalator to announce his candidacy in the 2016 presidential election to his acquittal on two articles of impeachment in early 2020, Fox hosts spread his lies and smeared his enemies,” Brian Stelter tells the twisted story of the relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News in  “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth” (2020).  

 

2018:
“[Fox News] is the closest we’ve come to having state TV.”

Nicole Hemmer, “Messengers of  the Right”(2018).

bookshop.org

 

The Murdochs’ Dark Empire, Still Striking Soullessly at the Heart of Republics like Ours

 

2024:

 

How Fox “News” Mimics Russian Propaganda Tactics

American cable TV news is partisan. But Fox News isn’t just partisan. It’s propaganda. Take it from someone who has worked inside Russian media and recognizes the same strategies on Fox.

Brian Klaas

May 14, 2024

Fox News Isn’t a Kingmaker

If it were, Ron DeSantis would be the Republican front-runner.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2024/01/fox-news-donald-trump-ron-desantis/677116/

[Excerpt:]

As the 2024 Republican presidential field began to stir three years ago, Fox News tried to make Ron DeSantis happen. From the week of the 2020 election through February 2021, the network invited DeSantis to appear 113 times, or almost once a day, according to the Tampa Bay Times. In an email uncovered by that newspaper, one Fox producer gushed to a member of DeSantis’s staff, “We see him as the future of the party.”

2023:

Rupert Murdoch to be deposed in Smartmatic defamation case against Fox

https://www.reuters.com/legal/rupert-murdoch-be-deposed-smartmatic-defamation-case-against-fox-2023-11-28/

[Excerpts:]

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.”

Dominion’s Fox News Case Was Just the Beginning

“The truth was in Fox’s inbox,” says one lawyer behind the blockbuster April settlement, as the company’s suits against Rudy Giuliani, Newsmax, and more keep moving through the courts.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/11/dominion-fox-news-case-was-just-the-beginning

The 2024 presidential contest is well underway, but teams of lawyers are still poring over the 2020 election, and for a very good reason: They are trying to hold Donald Trump’s allies accountable for the damage done by their election lies. Civil lawsuits by companies like Dominion Voting Systems are progressing at the same time that Trump is facing criminal trials in multiple jurisdictions. “We have so much work ahead of us,” Stephen Shackelford says on this week’s episode of Inside the Hive.

Shackelford was one of the lead attorneys in Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox News, which resulted in the media giant paying $787.5 million in April to settle that case. According to Davida Brook, another one of the lead attorneys, Dominion has “lawsuits pending against Newsmax, One America News, Mike Lindell and MyPillow, Sidney Powell and her law firm, Rudy Giuliani, and Patrick Byrne.” Those cases, she says, are “all proceeding towards trial.”

Host Brian Stelter interviewed Shackelford and Brook multiple times for his new book, Network of Lies, which hits shelves November 14. (Vanity Fair recently published an excerpt from the book about Tucker Carlson’s abrupt exit.) On Inside the Hive, Stelter shares some of his reporting from the book and asks the attorneys about the pending cases. Shackelford says Dominion was “put through hell” by Trump’s election lies in 2020—“hell that continues to this day.”

Brook says the ongoing litigation is about “setting the record straight”—which is what Dominion’s PR representatives called their fact-checking emails that Fox received in November 2020. “The truth was in Fox’s inbox,” Shackelford says. And yet Fox stars like Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs hyped conspiracy theories about Dominion instead.

The lawyers are now preparing for depositions. The suits are moving more slowly than the Fox case “because most of them are in DC, and the DC courts are very busy, still to this day, with a lot of the January 6 cases,” Shackelford says. The courts in Delaware, where Dominion sued Fox, “have traditionally moved at a quicker pace.” Dominion’s case against Newsmax is poised for a September 2024 trial in Delaware—if there is no settlement first. “We’ve got a long road ahead to finish up this work for Dominion,” Shackelford says.

Another election technology company, Smartmatic, is also suing Fox, Newsmax, and other defendants. “Smartmatic is a global company that was injured on a global scale,” attorney J. Erik Connolly told Stelter for the book. “The damages are much bigger.” Fox, which denies any wrongdoing, has dismissed Smartmatic’s damages claims as “implausible, disconnected from reality, and on its face intended to chill First Amendment freedoms.”

This article has been updated.

The move leaves his son Lachlan as the sole executive in charge of the global media empire.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/21/business/media/rupert-murdoch-fox-retire

[Excerpts:]

Mr. Murdoch has made his wishes clear regardless in elevating Lachlan. And, even now, he will continue to offer counsel in his emeritus role, Lachlan said in a company release. In his own statement to employees, the elder Mr. Murdoch indicated that he would do so actively and regularly. 

His companies, infused with a brand of right-wing populism, have amassed the power to shape, and at times make or break, presidents and prime ministers.

He built that empire across three continents, helping to shift norms and tastes in journalism, politics and popular culture throughout the English-speaking world. Exhibiting what critics and admirers equally described as a pirate’s sensibility, he acted with a willingness to move fast and break things — before that became trendy.

Those tactics also drew legal trouble and a steady stream of condemnation from opponents and even onetime allies, especially after stars of his Fox News Channel embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 election lies — leading to a $787.5 million legal settlement with Dominion Voting, the company at the center of so much of it. Other, related lawsuits are still pending, including one seeking $2.7 billion in damages.

Lachlan Murdoch, though striking a different image than his father — with tattoos and trademark leather boots — has so far represented continuity for the family companies. Though he has taken a more aggressive stance in entering the streaming sphere . . . , he has maintained the positioning of the companies’ more stridently conservative outlets.

He was in his current role overseeing Fox News in 2020 and had been initially supportive of the network’s far-right firebrand Tucker Carlson. He was also credited inside the company with forcing Mr. Carlson from the Fox lineup after the Dominion settlement in the spring.

But there is no indication the younger Mr. Murdoch will change the network’s overall course and hard-right approach in the lead-up to another presidential campaign that may well have Mr. Trump atop the Republican ticket.

Laura Ingraham let plenty of false claims from John Eastman fly in her two-part interview with him — except one

The falsehoods you’re allowed to tell on Fox News

[Excerpt:]

John Eastman is an attorney, but he is not a criminal defense attorney. If he were, he probably would have advised himself not to go on Fox News and offer comments about his efforts to help Donald Trump retain power after the 2020 election — comments that he could have reminded himself could be used against him by prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., where he’s been indicted on charges stemming from those efforts.

On the plus side, of course, Eastman could be confident that Fox News host Laura Ingraham would not offer a particularly grueling cross-examination of his claims. And she did not. The conversation, which aired in two parts on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, was predictably genial, with Ingraham allowing Eastman to make dubious claims without significant pushback.

The interview was revealing, though. Not necessarily in how it indicts Eastman, though we shall see on that score. Instead, it was revealing as an indictment of Fox News.

 

Trump lashes out at Fox News, Bill Barr

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/trump-lashes-out-at-fox-news-bill-barr-chris-christie-in-tucker-carlson-interview-highlights/

Former President Trump lashed out at a number of his favorite targets Wednesday night during an interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson meant to compete with the first GOP presidential debate that the 2024 GOP front-runner skipped.

Trump has ridiculed Fox for weeks over its coverage of him and complained to the network’s senior leadership about the firing of Carlson, which came just days after the network agreed to pay $787 million in settlement money to Dominion Voting Systems in connection with false claims aired on Fox about voter fraud being pushed by the former president and his allies. 

 

Trump vs. the Murdoch empire, part XVII

RACHAEL BADE AND EUGENE DANIELS

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

August 19. 2023

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2023/08/19/trump-vs-the-murdoch-empire-part


[Excerpt:]


While we often point out that making the debate stage is the most important hurdle for any Republican aspirant running in the primaries, hosting a presidential primary debate is enormously important to television networks. But for the Murdoch empire, beset by upstart rivals, it is existential.

RUPERT MURDOCH and DONALD TRUMP are the two most important sources of information for Republican voters, and in the last eight years they have waged war for supremacy. Sometimes they use each other (Trump gets airtime, Fox gets ratings), sometimes they are closely aligned (as in a general election against the Democrats), and sometimes they are openly hostile to one another (during primary season in 2015-2016 and again today when Fox and other Murdoch entities search for an alternative to Trump).

As with other power centers of the modern GOP that have not fully embraced MAGA, such as the Senate Republican leadership, Trump is again attacking Fox News with the same fury — and weird specificity — that he usually reserves for political rivals.

Here’s Trump on Thursday:

“Why doesn’t Fox and Friends show all of the Polls where I am beating Biden, by a lot. They just won’t do it! Also, they purposely show the absolutely worst pictures of me, especially the big ‘orange’ one with my chin pulled way back. They think they are getting away with something, they’re not. Just like 2016 all over again…And then they want me to debate!”

Trump’s apparent decision to skip the debate and instead do an interview with the ousted Fox host TUCKER CARLSON — who was the most pro-MAGA personality on the network even if he personally despises Trump himself — has to be seen in the context of this Murdoch-Trump war.

Trump’s intention is not just to upstage the other candidates. His intention is to damage Fox in the one metric that Murdoch and Trump both understand best: ratings.

Viet Dinh, an influential force inside the company, advised it through its $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/11/business/media/viet-dinh-fox-departing

[Excerpt:]

Fox Corporation’s chief legal officer, Viet Dinh, will depart at the end of the year, in a major shake-up at the company after the landmark $787.5 million settlement it paid to Dominion Voting Systems in April.

Mr. Dinh, a former official in the George W. Bush White House who amassed considerable power inside Fox, will advise the company after his exit, Fox said in an announcement on Friday.

Mr. Dinh gave what some inside the company considered flawed advice during the Dominion suit, which exposed a pattern of deceptive coverage by Fox News after the 2020 presidential election. He insisted that Fox was on firm legal footing and could take the case, if need be, all the way to the Supreme Court, where he believed the company would prevail on First Amendment grounds.

Fox News hosts are pushing Trump to join the Fox News GOP debate

The former president’s refusal to commit to the first debate of the 2024 cycle could make it a ratings wash-out. Aides say he’s unlikely to change his mind.

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson 
July 13. 203, 2023

In April the Fox Corporation settled a lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems for defamation after Fox News personalities falsely claimed the voting machine system had switched votes meant for Trump. Fox paid $787.5 million. Fox and several of its on-air personalities are still facing a $2.7 billion lawsuit from another voting company, Smartmatic, for their disinformation campaign involving that company. 

Both Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic are also suing MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, who used his fortune to promote the idea that the election was stolen. Lindell vowed, “I’ll spend everything I have to save the country I love.” Tuesday, James Bickerton of Newsweek reported that Lindell claims he has lost $100 million and is selling off equipment after major retailers stopped carrying his products. 

In Reliable Sources, CNN journalist Oliver Darcy reported today that three men associated with Rupert Murdoch in the early days of creating the Fox Corporation expressed their “deep disappointment for helping to give birth to Fox Broadcasting Company.” Preston Padden, Ken Solomon, and Bill Reyner wrote that they “never envisioned, and would not knowingly have enabled, the disinformation machine that, in our opinion, Fox has become.” 

In emails, Murdoch made it “very clear” to Padden “that he understood that the 2020 election had not been stolen,” but “Fox continued to perpetuate the ‘Big Lie’ and promote the Jan 6 ‘Stop the Steal’ rally in D.C.” The men claimed that others who worked with them to establish Fox “share our resentment that the reputation of the Fox brand we helped to build has been ruined by false news.” 

Padden told Darcy that he sees an “obvious connection between January 6 and Fox News.”

Despite the costs of their past false allegations, the Fox News Channel continues to be a conduit for Trump’s misinformation. As Judd Legum wrote today in Popular Information, some of the same figures who pushed the Big Lie are continuing to push the story that President Biden took money from China, despite the fact the “informant” who provided that story has now been indicted as a Chinese spy and is on the run from U.S. authorities.

“A responsible news organization would respond to the indictment of a key source with self-reflection and incorporate new facts into their reporting,” Legum writes. “But not Fox News. When facts arise that cut against their narrative, Fox News simply enlarges their conspiracy theory to accommodate them.” Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have called for an investigation into whether the Republicans on the committee have been duped by Chinese operatives.

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson 
July 13. 203, 2023

Yesterday, Trump supporter James Ray Epps, Sr., sued the Fox News Network for having “destroyed” the lives of Epps and his wife. The suit blames the network for lying to its viewers that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, a lie that inspired Epps to travel from his home in Arizona to Washington, D.C., to protest on January 6, 2021. 

In the aftermath of the riot, the suit says, “[h]aving promoted the lie that Joe Biden stole the election, having urged people to come to Washington, DC, and having helped light and then pour gasoline on a fire that resulted in an insurrection that interfered with the peaceful transition of power, Fox needed to mask its culpability. It also needed a narrative that did not alienate its viewers, who had grown distrustful of Fox because of its perceived lack of fealty to Trump.” And so, the suit says, the network—especially personality Tucker Carlson—turned on Epps, “promoting the lie that Epps was a federal agent who incited the attack on the Capitol” even after federal officials had cleared him.  

Epps is requesting compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs. 

In April the Fox Corporation settled a lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems for defamation after Fox News personalities falsely claimed the voting machine system had switched votes meant for Trump. Fox paid $787.5 million. Fox and several of its on-air personalities are still facing a $2.7 billion lawsuit from another voting company, Smartmatic, for their disinformation campaign involving that company. 

Tucker Carlson, before he was sidelined by Fox, repeatedly endorsed a conspiracy theory about an Arizona man, who may sue for defamation. Legal experts say it would be a viable case.

Jeremy W. Peters and 

[Excerpt:]

Of all the distortions and paranoia that Tucker Carlson promoted on his since-canceled Fox News program, one looms large: a conspiracy theory that an Arizona man working as a covert government agent incited the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol to sabotage and discredit former President Donald J. Trump and his political movement.

 

Fox News faces new legal threat from Smartmatic 

[Excerpt:]

Fox News has settled a blockbuster case brought by Dominion Voting Systems, but the network’s legal headaches are not over yet. 

A separate lawsuit from voting systems company Smartmatic similarly accuses Fox of maliciously giving Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani a platform to air false claims about the 2020 presidential election.

But unlike Dominion, Smartmatic is suing multiple hosts and Giuliani as individuals, in addition to Fox. The company is seeking at least $2.7 billion in damages, more than three times the size of Fox’s recent $787.5 million settlement with Dominion last week. And the case will be tried in New York state court, rather than Delaware.

“Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign,”  Erik Connolly, an attorney for Smartmatic, said in a statement shortly after the agreement with Dominion was announced. 

“Smartmatic will expose the rest. Smartmatic remains committed to clearing its name, recouping the significant damage done to the company, and holding Fox accountable for undermining democracy.” 

A trial in the Smartmatic case would still be months away, if not years. No date has been set, but Fox lost its first bid to toss Smartmatic’s suit, allowing the case to move onto discovery. 

 

The settlement with Dominion Voting Systems was the latest extraordinary twist in a case that exposed the inner workings of the most powerful voice in conservative news.

Jeremy W. Peters and 

Reporting from Wilmington, Del.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/18/business/media/fox-dominion-defamation-settle

[Excerpt:]

Fox News abruptly agreed on Tuesday to pay $787.5 million to resolve a defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s promotion of misinformation about the 2020 election, averting a lengthy and embarrassing trial just as a packed courtroom was seated in anticipation of hearing opening statements.

The settlement, one of the largest ever in a defamation case, was the latest extraordinary twist in a case that has been full of remarkable disclosures that exposed the inner workings of the most powerful voice in conservative news.

In addition to the huge financial price, Dominion exacted a difficult admission from Fox News, which acknowledged in a statement that “certain claims” it made about Dominion were false.

[Boldface added]

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

April 1, 2023 

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

Also today, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled in favor of Dominion Voting Systems in a key point of the company’s lawsuit against the Fox News Corporation for defamation. The ruling also established the central point for dismissing the story that Trump had won the 2020 election. Davis wrote—in italics—“The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that [it] is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” 

The Fox News Corporation had argued that the false statements of its hosts claiming that the voting system had thrown the 2020 presidential election to Biden were not defamatory because they were opinions. In his decision the judge went through the statements, calling out 20 occasions on which lies were stated as facts and similar occasions on which deliberately omitted material changed the meaning of what was presented. 

The judge has determined that the hosts’ statements were false. Now the case will go to a jury trial in April to determine whether Fox hosts knew they were lying and whether Dominion sustained damages from the defamation. The company is suing for $1.6 billion.

 

What key players at Fox News said about the network and its viewers

https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2023/03/10/fox-news-lawsuit-key-players/

 

Tucker Carlson amplifies Jan. 6 lies with GOP-provided video

Mar. 7, 2023

 

Fox libel defense at odds with top GOP presidential foes

Mar. 6, 2023
[Excerpt:]
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News is on an unlikely collision course with two leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination over the rights of journalists.

In defending itself against a massive defamation lawsuit over how it covered false claims surrounding the 2020 presidential election, the network is relying on a nearly 60-year-old Supreme Court ruling that makes it difficult to successfully sue media organizations for libel.

Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, two favorites of many Fox News viewers, have advocated for the court to revisit the standard, which is considered the foundational case in American defamation law.

“It is ironic that Fox is relying on a landmark case that was designed to help the news media play the watchdog role in a democracy and is under attack by Gov. DeSantis, Donald Trump and other figures who have been untethered in their attacks on journalists as enemies of the people,” said Jane Hall, a communication professor at American University.

Fox News election fraud revelations could take down the network’s embattled chief

The stunning levels of misconduct exposed in recent weeks raise questions about the future of Suzanne Scott, the embattled chief executive of Fox News. Will she be Murdoch’s sacrificial lamb? No moves are currently on the immediate horizon, CNN is told. But it’s certainly possible — perhaps even likely — that Murdoch might cancel her in an attempt to save himself and his legacy.

The Murdochs “are certainly setting Suzanne Scott up to take the fall for this,” Ben Smith, the Semafor editor-in-chief who writes a Sunday night media column, said Wednesday.

“They’re leaving a trail of crumbs that lead back to her office,” added David Folkenflik, the NPR media correspondent and Murdoch biographer.

There is no shortage of evidence to support the notion Scott is on the chopping block. Most notably, during his deposition, Murdoch sought to distance himself from decision making at Fox News. Instead, he pointed to Scott: “I appointed Ms. Scott to the job … and I delegate everything to her,” he said. 

This is not the first time that Murdoch has been faced with a serious and embarrassing matter in his media empire. In 2011, his now-defunct News of the World newspaper was ensnared in a phone hacking scandal. In 2016, Fox News founder Roger Ailes was accused in an explosive lawsuit of sexual harassment. And in 2017, star host Bill O’Reilly was caught in his own sexual misconduct scandal.

In each case, Murdoch made the decision to sever ties with top personnel. As one source who once worked in Murdoch-world said Wednesday, “His pattern has been to throw some money overboard and offer a head or two in the process to make it go away.” And cutting ties with Scott would appear to be one of the easier ousters for Murdoch to execute over the course of his decades at the helm of one of the world’s biggest media empires.

“Murdoch has a history of sacrificing loyal lieutenants, but he does it only in the most extreme circumstances,” Rutenberg said. “We know that he hates doing it. We know that he tends to try to fight for his loyalists, even for Ailes, certainly for O’Reilly. But when it’s a necessity to overcome a real threat to his business, he’ll do it.”

When asked in his deposition whether Fox News executives who knowingly allowed “lies to be broadcast” should face consequences, Murdoch responded in the affirmative: “They should be reprimanded,” he said. “They should be reprimanded, maybe got rid of.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“With unfounded fraud claims swirling, red California county dumps Dominion voting machines”

LAT:

Swept up in unproven voter fraud claims, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors has upended the county’s election process, canceling its contract with Dominion Voting Systems and opting this week to pursue, among other options, the possibility of counting votes by hand.

Supervisor Kevin Crye, part of a newly empowered hard-right majority on the board, also announced at Tuesday’s board meeting that he had been in touch with MyPillow Chief Executive Mike Lindell, a prominent pro-Donald Trump election conspiracy theorist, about supporting a pilot voting system in the rural Northern California county.

On the same day, in another Republican-controlled county 400 miles south, Kern County supervisors narrowly voted to keep Dominion as the county’s voting system, but not before listening to hours of testimony from residents who were convinced the system was rigged.

Dominion is one of the largest suppliers of voting machines and software in the U.S., and currently runs voting machines in 41 of California’s 58 counties. After President Trump lost the election in 2020, his supporters spent months propagating baseless conspiracy theories about Dominion, including false accusations that the company’s machines were used to throw votes from Trump to Joe Biden and that Dominion — a company based in Colorado — was a corrupt tool with ties to the Venezuelan government. Those allegations were given heavy airing in right-wing media, including on Fox News.

          [Boldface added]

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson from 
March 1, 2023

Now House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has given exclusive access to 44,000 hours of video from the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, to one of those hosts, Tucker Carlson. 

Today, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) did an end run around McCarthy to address the problem of disinformation directly at the source. They sent a letter to Rupert Murdoch, chair of the Fox Corporation, and other top Fox executives, reminding them of their damning testimony and reminding them that “your network hosts continue to promote, spew, and perpetuate election conspiracy theories to this day.”

They wrote: “We demand that you direct Tucker Carlson and other hosts on your network to stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior.” 

It is an important marker, and if the Fox Corporation can read the writing on the wall as well as Eli Lilly can, it might shift the focus of the Fox News Channel, which already seems to be trying to pull its support for Trump and give it to Florida governor Ron DeSantis. 

[Boldface added]

 

Rupert Murdoch testified that Fox News hosts ‘endorsed’ stolen election narrative

Network owner also admitted in $1.6bn defamation lawsuit deposition that Trump’s claims were ‘damaging to everybody

Feb 27, 2023

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/feb/27/rupert-murdoch-deposition-dominion-lawsuit-fox-news?

 

Letters from an America

Another filing today in the defamation lawsuit of Dominion Voting Systems against the Fox News Network has revealed more of the machinations behind the construction of the Big Lie that former president Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

A previous filing showed that Fox News Channel hosts knew full well that Biden had won and that Trump loyalists saying the election was fraudulent had no evidence. Personalities like Tucker Carlson continued to push the Big Lie, though, apparently out of fear that they would lose their audience to Newsmax and other right-wing outlets that continued to parrot the idea that Trump had won the election.

Today’s filing shows that executives at the highest levels of the Fox Corporation and the Fox News Network knowingly permitted Fox News Channel personalities to spread false conspiracy theories about the election in order to protect their profits. It includes testimony from Rupert Murdoch, the chair of the Fox Corporation, showing that Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chair and chief executive officer of the Fox Corporation, as well as Suzanne Scott, the chief executive officer of Fox News Media, were all deeply involved in the question of how to deal with Trump’s lies and with the personalities who were echoing those lies, without losing viewership.

Rupert Murdoch spoke with Scott frequently, and testified: “I’m a journalist at heart. I like to be involved in these things.” Lachlan Murdoch, as well, was in the loop with his father and Scott. Ultimately, although they knew that claims of massive election fraud were unfounded, they decided to give the lies airtime anyway to stop their audience from abandoning them for other channels. Fox board member and former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) warned them “that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories,” but they ignored him.

Murdoch also revealed FNC’s role as a wing of the Republican Party when he testified that he “provided Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy… (providing Kushner a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public).”

Political writer Rick Wilson summed it up: “They knew Trump lost. They knew there was not then (nor is there now) a scintilla of fraud. They knew, and lied. Over, and over, and over. They chose guests they knew were lying. They allowed story meetings promoting a massive, dangerous lie that reduced faith and belief in the American system. The entire top level of Fox management knew their lies were leading to danger for this nation…. They knew the lies were lies. They fed and fed the beast.”

 

Fox News Holds Its Own Media Reporter Hostage As Defamation Case Plays Out

https://morningmemo.talkingpointsmemo.com/p/fox-news-holds-its-own-media-reporter

Howard Kurtz’s Cry For Help

For anyone who’s observed Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz (no relation) over the years, this is a comedy-rich situation.

His network is facing what could be a historic, billion dollar defamation case by Dominion Voting Systems. The case has already revealed the corrosive, corrupt, self-serving, and deeply compromised inner workings of the Fox News operations. It puts the network at the center of promulgating the Big Lie that culminated in the Jan. 6 insurrection, produced a second impeachment of Donald Trump, and may yet lead to criminal charges against the former president. In other words, it’s the biggest story of our time – and Howie has been sidelines by his Fox News bosses, he revealed Sunday.

 

MICHELLE GOLDBERG

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/17/opinion/fox-news-dominion

[Excerpts:]

The brief, a motion for summary judgment in a case stemming from Fox’s egregiously false claims of Dominion-abetted election fraud, offers a portrait of extravagant cynicism. It reveals how obsessed Carlson and other leading Fox News figures were with audience share, and their fear of being outflanked by even further-right outlets like Newsmax.

“It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” Bill Sammon, a Fox senior vice president until 2021, is quoted as saying. It’s a line that would fall flat on “Succession” because it’s too absurdly on the nose.

As the Dominion filing lays out, there was panic at Fox News over viewer backlash to the network correctly calling Arizona for Joe Biden on election night. Despite its accuracy, the call was viewed, internally, as a catastrophe.

“Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience?” Carlson texted his producer. He added, “An alternative like Newsmax could be devastating to us.” Sean Hannity, in an exchange with fellow hosts Carlson and Laura Ingraham, fretted about the “incalculable” damage the Arizona projection did to the Fox News brand and worried about a competitor emerging: “Serious $$ with serious distribution could be a real problem.”

Hyping false claims about election fraud was a way for Fox to win its audience back. While the Arizona call was “damaging,” Fox News C.E.O. Suzanne Scott wrote in a text to Fox executive Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, “We will highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them.”

When Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked Trump’s wild claims about Dominion on Twitter, Carlson was enraged and tried to get her fired. “It needs to stop immediately, like tonight,” he texted Hannity. “It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” (Heinrich kept her job but deleted the tweet.)

The network knew, of course, that Trump’s lawyer Sidney Powell, a chief promoter of Dominion conspiracy theories, was a delusional fantasist. The legal brief reveals that some of her claims about Dominion were based on an email Powell had received from someone who claimed to be capable of “time travel in a semiconscious state.” On Nov. 18, 2020, Carlson told Ingraham: “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. Caught her. It’s insane.” Ingraham wrote back that Powell was a “complete nut.”

But according to the Dominion brief, an analysis by Ron Mitchell, the senior vice president for prime-time programming and analytics, found that “Fox viewers were switching the channel specifically to watch Sidney Powell as a guest” on Newsmax. A few days after this analysis, Powell was a guest on Hannity’s show.

At one point, Carlson did express skepticism of Powell on-air, noting on Nov. 19 that she had never produced evidence for her claims. “Maybe Sidney Powell will come forward soon with details on exactly how this happened, and precisely who did it,” he said, adding, “We are certainly hopeful that she will.”

Even this gentle note of doubt produced viewer pushback, though most of a message about it from Fox executive Raj Shah is redacted. Afterward, Carlson seems to have given up trying to steer his audience away from total credulity about Trump’s stolen election claims, even though he privately called Trump a “demonic force.”

On Jan. 26, Carlson hosted MyPillow founder Mike Lindell on his show and let him sound off about Dominion without resistance. In fairness, Carlson may have had a motive for indulging Lindell besides grubbing for ratings. As Media Matters for America pointed out, MyPillow at the time was Carlson’s single biggest advertiser.

“Respecting this audience whether we agree or not is critical,” Hannity texted on Nov. 24. It’s a version of respect indistinguishable from contempt.

[Boldface added]

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.”

 

Letters from an America,

Feb. 16. 2023

A legal filing today in the case of Dominion Voting Systems against the Fox News Corporation provides a window into the role of disinformation and money in the movement to deny that President Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion Voting Systems is suing FNC for defamation after FNC personalities repeatedly claimed that the company’s voting machines had corrupted the final tallies in the 2020 election. The filing today shows that those same personalities didn’t believe what they were telling their viewers, and suggests that they made those groundless accusations because they worried their viewers were abandoning them to go to channels that told them what they wanted to hear: that Trump had won the election. 

The quotes in the filing are eye-popping:

On November 10, 2020, Trump advisor Steven Bannon wrote to FNC personality Maria Bartiromo: “71 million voters will never accept Biden. This process is to destroy his presidency before it even starts; IF it even starts….  We either close on Trumps [sic] victory or del[e]gitimize Biden…. THE PLAN.”

FNC’s internal fact checks on November 13 and November 20 called accusations of irregularities in the voting “Incorrect” and said there was “not evidence of widespread fraud.”

On November 15, Laura Ingraham wrote to Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity: “Sidney Power is a bit nuts. Sorry, but she is.” 

On November 16, Carlson wrote to his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, “Sidney Powell is lying.” 

On November 19, FNC chair Rupert Murdoch wrote: “Really crazy stuff.” 

Hannity later testified: “[T]hat whole narrative that Sidney was pushing. I did not believe it for one second.” 

Fox Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt later testified, “[N]o reasonable person would have thought that,” when asked if it was true that Dominion rigged the election.

The filing claims that FNC peddled a false narrative of election fraud to its viewers because its pro-Trump audience had jumped ship after the network had been the first to call Arizona for Biden, and its ratings were plummeting as Trump loyalists jumped to Newsmax. “I’ve never seen a reaction like this, to any media company,” Carlson wrote to Suzanne Scott, chief executive officer of Fox News, on November 9. “Kills me to watch it.” On November 12, Hannity told Carlson and Ingraham, “In one week and one debate they destroyed a brand that took 25 years to build and the damage is incalculable.” 

They went to “war footing” to “protect the brand.”For example, when FNC reporter Jacqui Heinrich accurately fact checked a Trump tweet, correcting him by saying that “top election infrastructure officials” said that “[t]here is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” Carlson told Hannity: “Please get her fired. Seriously…. What the f*ck? I’m actually shocked…. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company.The stock price is down. Not a joke.” 

Heinrich deleted her tweet. 

The filing says that not a single witness from FNC testified they believed any of the allegations they were making about Dominion. 

[Boldface added]

 

Fox hid the Schlapps from its airwaves after a GOP staffer told The Daily Beast that Matt Schlapp groped him

Matt and Mercedes Schlapp are frequent guests on Fox News and Fox Business, which haven’t mentioned the staffer’s story on their programming

https://www.mediamatters.org/fox-news/fox-hid-schlapps-its-airwaves-after-gop-staffer-told-daily-beast-matt-schlapp-groped-him

Frequent Fox News guests Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes have disappeared from Fox’s airwaves in the two weeks since The Daily Beast published a January 5 story about a GOP staffer who said that Matt, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, “fondled” his crotch. Although FoxNews.com has published one article about the accusation, the Schlapps have not been mentioned on Fox News or Fox Business since January 5.

The staffer, who was working for the Herschel Walker campaign for U.S. Senate at the time and was assigned as Schlapp’s driver, told The Daily Beast that the incident occurred on October 19. He provided the media outlet with contemporaneous call records, text messages, and videos he recorded following the incident to corroborate his story. From the article:

A staffer for Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has alleged to The Daily Beast that longtime Republican activist Matt Schlapp made “sustained and unwanted and unsolicited” sexual contact with him while the staffer was driving Schlapp back from an Atlanta bar this October.

The staffer said the incident occurred the night of Oct. 19, when Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union and lead organizer for the influential Conservative Political Action Conference, “groped” and “fondled” his crotch in his car against his will after buying him drinks at two different bars.

The staffer described Schlapp, who had traveled to Georgia for a Walker campaign event, as inappropriately and repeatedly intruding into his personal space at the bars. He said he was also keenly aware of his “power dynamic” with Schlapp, widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in national conservative politics.

The staffer also said he told the campaign about the incident the following day and that the campaign was supportive of him, and The Daily Beast confirmed details of the campaign’s involvement with the staffer’s complaint.

The Schlapps are frequent guests on Fox, where Mercedes had previously been a paid contributor. According to Media Matters’ internal database of cable news guest appearances, Matt appeared on Fox News’ weekday programs at least 29 times in 2022, and Mercedes appeared at least 56 times. They also appeared multiple times this month alone before the allegations against Matt Schlapp became public. According to SnapStream transcripts, Mercedes appeared on Fox News once and Fox Business three times during the first week of January, and Matt had one appearance on Fox Business during this time. But there have been no appearances for either of them since the story first broke on January 5 through 11 am Eastern on January 19.

In fact, the Schlapps haven’t even been mentioned once on Fox or Fox Business since then. Manyothermajornews outlets began covering the story January 17 after the staffer filed a lawsuit against Matt Schlapp, which accused Schlapp of “aggressively fondling” the staffer’s “genital area in a sustained fashion,” as well as accusing both of the Schlapps of defamation and conspiracy to discredit the staffer.

And while FoxNews.com did report on the lawsuit, both Fox News and Fox Business have failed to cover it on air, while one of the network’s rivals, CNN, has covered the staffer’s story about Matt’s actions multipletimes since January 11.

Methodology

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network for the term “Schlapp” from January 5, 2023, when a Herschel Walker staffer first reported that Matt Schlapp had groped him, through January 19, 2023.

We included segments, which we defined as instances when the report of groping was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the allegations. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the groping allegation with one another.

We also reviewed guest appearances by Matt or Mercedes Schlapp for whether Fox News or Fox Business personalities asked about the allegations or the lawsuit.

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

[Excerpts:]

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.

Dominion has conducted dozens of depositions with current and former network personalities, producers, business managers and executives. The people questioned come from the rungs of middle management at Fox News headquarters in Manhattan to the corner office in Century City, Los Angeles, where Mr. Murdoch oversees the Fox Corporation and its sprawling enterprise of conservative media outlets.

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.

Fox has accused Dominion in court filings of making “escalating demands” for documents that are voluminous in quantity, saying it would have to hire a second litigation team to accommodate such a “crushing burden.” (The judge has largely disagreed.)

After Dominion filed its lawsuit in March 2021 — claiming that Fox’s coverage of its machines not only cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in business but “harmed the idea of credible elections” — many media law experts assumed this case would end like many other high-profile defamation case against a news organization: with a settlement.

Fox News has a history of settling sensitive lawsuits before they reach a jury. In the last several years alone, it has paid tens of millions of dollars in claims: to women who reported sexual harassment by its former chief executive, Roger Ailes, and by prominent hosts including Bill O’Reilly; as well as to the family of Seth Rich, a former Democratic Party staff member who was killed in a robbery that some conservatives tried to link to an anti-Clinton conspiracy theory.

But a settlement with Dominion appears to be a remote possibility at this point. Fox has said that the broad protections provided to the media under the First Amendment shield it from liability. The network says it was merely reporting on Mr. Trump’s accusations, which are protected speech even if the president is lying. Dominion’s complaint outlines examples in which Fox hosts did more than just report those false claims, they endorsed them.

“This does not appear to be a case that’s going to settle — but anything can happen,” said Dan K. Webb, a noted trial lawyer who is representing Fox in the dispute. “There are some very fundamental First Amendment issues here, and those haven’t changed.”

In a statement, Dominion said the company was confident its case would show that Fox knew it was spreading lies “from the highest levels down.”

“Instead of acting responsibly and showing remorse, Fox instead has doubled down,” the statement said. “We’re focused on holding Fox accountable and are confident the truth will ultimately prevail.”

The judge has set a trial date for April of next year. A separate defamation suit against Fox by the voting company Smartmatic is not scheduled to be ready for trial until the summer of 2024.

Part of the reason Fox executives and its lawyers believe they can prevail is the high burden of proof Dominion must reach to convince a jury that the network’s coverage of the 2020 election defamed it. Under the law, a jury has to conclude that Fox acted with “actual malice,” meaning that people inside the network knew that what they were reporting was false but did so anyway, or that they recklessly disregarded information showing what they were reporting was wrong.

That is what Dominion hopes to show the jury with the private messages it obtained from a several-week period after the election from Fox employees at all levels of the company. Very little is known publicly about what those messages could contain.

In addition to arguing that its coverage of Dominion was protected as free speech, Fox argues it was merely covering statements from newsmakers. “There is nothing more newsworthy than covering the president of the United States and his lawyers making allegations of voter fraud,” a spokeswoman said.

Fox’s lawyers are also planning lines of defense that they hope will dent Dominion’s credibility, even if that means leaning into some of the conspiracy theories that are at the heart of Dominion’s case. They may argue, for example, that it was plausible that the machines had been hacked, pointing to questions that were raised by at least one independent expert about whether the software was secure.

As part of their fact-finding, Fox lawyers sought information from a University of Michigan computer scientist who wrote a report this year saying there were vulnerabilities in Dominion’s system that could be exploited, even though there is no evidence of any such breach.

Mr. Webb said the intent would be to show that the fraud allegations “were not made up out of whole cloth.” But it was not his plan, he said, to pretend that Mr. Trump’s voter fraud falsehoods — which were the same as many of the falsehoods uttered on the air at Fox — were true. “The president’s allegations were not correct,” Mr. Webb said. He added that he planned “to show the jury that those security concerns were there and were real and added plausibility to the president’s allegations.”

New York Post targets ‘Trumpty Dumpty’ in scathing cover

Rupert Murdoch’s conservative media empire helped propel Donald Trump’s remarkable rise from tabloid-friendly New York real estate mogul and reality show star to the presidency.

But in the wake of disappointing results for the Republican Party in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Murdoch-owned media outlets — the New York Post, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal — are blaming Trump for the GOP’s lackluster performance, and appear ready to move on from the former president.

On its front page Wednesday morning, the New York Post anointed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “DeFuture” of the GOP. On Thursday it took fresh aim at Trump, depicting him as “Trumpty Dumpty.”

Before the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection held its first prime-time hearing in June, Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, called Lachlan Murdoch, her boss, to tell him how her network planned to broadcast the event.

They wouldn’t, she said. The channel would stick with its usual prime-time lineup of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Mr. Murdoch, the executive chairman of Fox Corporation, was fine with Ms. Scott’s decision, according to an executive with knowledge of their conversation.

As a business move, Ms. Scott’s call was the right one for Fox News in the end. As many viewers tuned in as they would on a regular night. And Fox still managed to best CNN in the ratings.

The decision was true to form, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former colleagues. Since Ms. Scott took over the top job at Fox News in 2018, her colleagues said, she has managed from behind the scenes with a simple mantra: Respect Fox’s audience. Often, that involves sparing conservative viewers what they don’t want to hear — even when that means ignoring one of the biggest stories of the year.

That strategy has helped Fox News succeed not just as the most-watched cable news network in the country but also as a multibillion-dollar consumer brand with a suite of businesses that, according to a recent company promo for one product, offers fans “The World According to Fox.” In addition to the Fox News and Fox Business cable channels, Ms. Scott has introduced Fox News Books, a publisher of meditations on Christianity; Fox Nation, a $5.99-per-month streaming service that produces a reboot of “Cops” and an original special from Mr. Carlson, “The End of Men,” that purports to explore a nationwide decline in testosterone rates; and Fox Weather, a new app and cable channel.

But Ms. Scott’s Fox News — a sanctuary for conservatives where few unpleasant facts intrude and political misinformation has spread — also looms large in a case that threatens Fox’s business, and possibly Ms. Scott herself. She has emerged as one of the central figures in the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems, in which the voting company accuses Fox executives of juicing ratings and profits by repeatedly airing false information about Dominion machines siphoning votes away from former President Donald J. Trump.

According to several people closely involved in the case, lawyers for Dominion are expected to depose her soon. A judge has granted Dominion access to her emails and text messages from the period after the 2020 election when Fox anchors and guests amplified some of the most outrageous falsehoods about Dominion and its supposed role in a plot to steal the election.

So far, those messages contained at least one instance in which Ms. Scott expressed skepticism about the dubious claims of voter fraud that her network had been promoting, a recent court proceeding revealed. That kind of evidence is what Dominion hopes will ultimately convince a jury that Fox broadcast information it knew to be false, which would leave the company on the hook for significant damages.

Jeremy W. Peters covers media and its intersection with politics, law and culture. He is the author of “Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted.” He is a contributor to MSNBC. @jwpetersnytFacebook

Rachel Abrams is a media reporter for The Times. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting that exposed sexual harassment and misconduct. @rachelabramsny

 

Letters from an American, Heather Scott Smith

October 12, 2022

Meanwhile, the $1.6 billion lawsuit in which Dominion Voting Systems is suing the Fox News Corporation [FNC] for its lies about Dominion’s voting machines in the 2020 election is moving forward. The FNC is apparently planning to argue that FNC personalities were simply expressing opinions when they said the machines were rigged, much as FNC has argued to defend host Tucker Carlson from lawsuits, saying that he was not reporting facts and that no “reasonable viewer” would take him seriously.

Sean Hannity and Other Fox Stars Face Depositions in Defamation Suit

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/25/business/media/sean-hannity-fox-dominion-defamation

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.

Chris Stirewalt was part of a pivotal decision to declare Joe Biden the winner of Arizona in 2020. Now he’s speaking out about a network he says incites “black-helicopter-level paranoia and hatred.

Stirewalt also offers a counterintuitive take on what Fox News ultimately wants to achieve by offering content that tilts hard to the right. It’s not to elect Republicans or really even to help them at all, he says.

 

 

Rather, it’s about making money. [Boldface added]

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/19/us/politics/chris-stirewalt-fox-news

Today’s newsletter is a guest contribution by Jeremy W. Peters, who writes for The Times’s media desk. He got his hands on a forthcoming book by Chris Stirewalt, a former senior journalist at Fox News, and shares its highlights here.

After a decade at Fox News, Chris Stirewalt was suddenly shown the door in January 2021, becoming a casualty of restructuring — or, at least, that was how Fox described his and other layoffs that swept out longtime journalists who were part of the network’s news division.

Stirewalt, who was part of the team at Fox News that projects election results and who testified before the House Jan. 6 committee this summer, suspects there was a bigger reason behind his firing, which he explains in his new book, “Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back,” to be released next week.

“I got canned after very vocal and very online viewers — including the then-president of the United States — became furious when our Decision Desk was the first to project that Joe Biden would win the former G.O.P. stronghold of Arizona in 2020,” Stirewalt writes.

Coming at 11:20 p.m., well before the other networks declared that Biden would win the state, the Fox call was extremely controversial and consequential. It infuriated Donald Trump and threw a wrench into his attempt to falsely declare himself the winner of the 2020 election. He ordered his campaign aides to demand that Fox retract the call, to no avail.

Despite the pressure to reverse its decision, and the ratings crash Fox suffered in the next few weeks after Trump urged people to watch other networks, the network didn’t buckle because the Decision Desk analysts insisted that the data backed up their projections. And they were right.

A spokeswoman for Fox News said, “Chris Stirewalt’s quest for relevance knows no bounds,” and disputed the idea that his departure from the network had anything to do with the Arizona call. She added that Arnon Mishkin, the head of the Decision Desk, would be returning for the November midterm elections.

Stirewalt’s book is an often candid reflection on the state of political journalism and his time at Fox News, where such post-mortem assessments are not common — either because of the strict confidentiality agreements in place for employees, or the loyalty that some network insiders continue to feel even after they’ve left.

In Stirewalt’s view, the network has played a leading role in the coarsening of American democracy and the radicalization of the right. At one point in the book, he accuses Fox of inciting “black-helicopter-level paranoia and hatred.”

He describes how, over his 11 years at the network, he witnessed Fox feeding its viewers more and more of what they wanted to hear, and little else. This kind of affirming coverage got worse during the years that Trump was president, he says, and turbocharged the reaction of Trump supporters once Fox called Arizona for Biden.

“Even in the four years since the previous presidential election, Fox viewers had become even more accustomed to flattery and less willing to hear news that challenged their expectations,” he writes. “Me serving up green beans to viewers who had been spoon-fed ice cream sundaes for years came as a terrible shock to their systems.”

He describes the “rage” directed at him and the rest of the Decision Desk team, writing, “Amid the geyser of anger in the wake of the Arizona call, Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, called for my firing and accused me of a ‘cover-up.’”

He goes on, “Covering up what, exactly? We didn’t have any ballots to count and we didn’t have any electoral votes to award.”

Stirewalt also writes: “Had viewers been given a more accurate understanding of the race over time, Trump’s loss would have been seen as a likely outcome. Instead of understanding his narrow win in 2016 as the shocking upset that it was, viewers were told to assume that polls don’t apply (unless they were good for Trump) and that forecasters like me were going to be wrong again.”

Stirewalt names names, taking particular aim at Tucker Carlson, the host of Fox’s highest-rated prime time show and a frequent fanner of flames in the nation’s cultural battles. He paints Carlson and Fox management as hypocrites who claim to be standing up against big corporate media despite being part of a gigantic corporate media enterprise.

“Carlson is rich and famous,” Stirewalt writes. “Yet he regularly rails about the ‘big, legacy media outlets.’ Guests denounce the ‘corporate media’ on his show and Fox’s C.E.O. calls Carlson ‘brave’ for discussing controversial topics. Yet somehow, nobody even giggles.”

He adds, “It does not take any kind of journalistic courage to pump out night after night exactly what your audience wants to hear.”

Stirewalt also offers a counterintuitive take on what Fox News ultimately wants to achieve by offering content that tilts hard to the right. It’s not to elect Republicans or really even to help them at all, he says.

Rather, it’s about making money.

Hosts like Sean Hannity and analysts like Dick Morris, the former Clinton aide who became a fixture on Fox, for years propagated falsehoods to their audiences about how well Republicans were positioned to win their races, apparently aiming to juice the network’s ratings, Stirewalt writes.

“They wanted it to be true because they wanted Republicans to win,” he says, “but keeping viewers keyed up about the epochal victory close at hand was an appealing incentive to exaggerate the G.O.P. chances. It was good for them to raise expectations, but it wasn’t good for the party they were rooting for.”

He adds, “Despite all that Fox’s detractors said about the network being a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, the two organizations had fundamentally different aims.”

Stirewalt briefly reflects on what his role in all of this might have been, now that he’s been gone for a year and a half. He is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a columnist for The Dispatch.

“I make no pretense that I have always been on the side of the angels,” he writes. “But I have definitely paid my dues.”

The former president hasn’t been interviewed on the Rupert Murdoch-owned cable network in more than 100 days, and other Republicans often get the attention he once did.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/29/business/media/fox-news-donald-trump-rupert-murdoch

[Excerpt:]

The snubs are not coincidental, according to several people close to Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corporation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the company’s operations. This month, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, both owned by Mr. Murdoch, published blistering editorials about Mr. Trump’s actions concerning the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the Capitol.

The skepticism toward the former president extends to the highest levels of the company, according to two people with knowledge of the thinking of Mr. Murdoch, the chairman, and his son Lachlan, the chief executive. It also reflects concerns that Republicans in Washington, like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have expressed to the Murdochs about the potential harm Mr. Trump could cause to the party’s chances in upcoming elections, especially its odds of taking control of the Senate.

The Murdochs’ discomfort with Mr. Trump stems from his refusal to accept his election loss, according to two people familiar with those conversations, and is generally in sync with the views of Republicans, like Mr. McConnell, who mostly supported the former president but long ago said the election was settled and condemned his efforts to overturn it.

One person familiar with the Murdochs’ thinking said they remained insistent that Fox News had made the right call when its decision desk projected that Joseph R. Biden would win Arizona just after 11 p.m. on the night of the election — a move that infuriated Mr. Trump and short-circuited his attempt to prematurely declare victory. This person said Lachlan Murdoch had privately described the decision desk’s call, which came days before other networks concluded that Mr. Trump had lost the state, as something only Fox “had the courage and science to do.”

Some of the people acknowledged that Fox’s current approach to Mr. Trump could be temporary. If Mr. Trump announces he is running for president, or if he is indicted, he will warrant more coverage, they said.

A spokesman for Mr. McConnell declined to comment. A spokesman for the Fox Corporation also declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump.

The relationship between Mr. Trump and the Murdoch media empire has long been complicated — an arrangement of mutual convenience and mistrust that has had sensational ups and downs since Mr. Trump first talked himself onto the gossip pages of The New York Post in the 1980s.

But the spat between the former president and the media baron who has helped set the Republican Party’s agenda for decades is occurring in a much larger and more fragmented media landscape, as new personalities and platforms make it much harder for any one outlet to change the narrative. Mr. Trump’s allies in the corners of the conservative media that are more loyal to him — including Breitbart, Newsmax and talk radio — are already seizing on the turn inside Fox as evidence of a betrayal.

Mr. Trump appears willing to fight. He blasted “Fox & Friends” this week on his social media service, Truth Social, for being “terrible” and having “gone to the ‘dark side’” after one of its hosts had mentioned that Mr. DeSantis had beat Mr. Trump in two recent polls of a hypothetical 2024 Republican primary contest. Then, offering no evidence, he blamed Paul Ryan, the former Republican speaker of the House, with whom he often clashed. Mr. Ryan sits on the Fox Corporation’s board of directors.

The Post was often on Mr. Trump’s side in its editorials when he was president. But it occasionally went against him, like when Mr. Trump refused to concede the election in 2020 and the paper’s front-page headline blared: “Mr. President, STOP THE INSANITY.

Mr. Trump found a home on Fox News when the network’s founder, Roger Ailes, gave him a weekly slot on “Fox & Friends” in 2011. Mr. Trump used the platform to connect with the budding Tea Party movement as he thrashed establishment Republicans like Mr. Ryan and spread a lie about the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Initially, neither Mr. Ailes nor Mr. Murdoch thought of Mr. Trump as a serious presidential candidate. Mr. Ailes told colleagues at the time that he thought Mr. Trump was using his 2016 campaign to get a better deal with NBC, which broadcast “The Apprentice,” according to “Insurgency,” this reporter’s account of Mr. Trump’s rise in the G.O.P. And, when Ivanka Trump told Mr. Murdoch over lunch in 2015 that her father intended to run, Mr. Murdoch reportedly did not even look up from his soup, according to “The Devil’s Bargain,” by Joshua Green.

But as Mr. Trump became bigger than any one news outlet — and bigger than even his own political party — he was able to turn the tables and rally his supporters against Fox or any other outlet he felt was too critical of him. He regularly used Twitter to attack Fox personalities like Megyn Kelly, Charles Krauthammer and Karl Rove.

The network could always be critical of him in its news coverage. But now the skepticism comes through louder — in asides from news anchors, in interviews with voters or in opinion articles for other Murdoch-owned properties.

Referring to the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, the Fox anchor Bret Baier said it had made Mr. Trump “look horrific” by detailing how it had taken 187 minutes for him to be persuaded to say anything publicly about the riot. One recent segment on FoxNews.com featured interviews with Trump supporters who were overwhelmingly unenthusiastic about a possible third campaign, saying that they thought “his time has passed” and that he was “a little too polarizing.” Then they offered their thoughts on who should replace him on the ticket. Unanimously, they named Mr. DeSantis.

“I spent 11 years at Fox, and I know nothing pretaped hits a Fox screen that hasn’t been signed off on and sanctioned at the very top levels of management,” said Eric Bolling, a former Fox host who is now with Newsmax. “Especially when it has to do with a presidential election.”

There can be no denying that Fox News remains Fox News. Viewers in recent weeks have seen occasionally critical coverage of Mr. Trump, but, unlike other news networks, Fox has chosen to air its own prime-time programming rather than the hearings of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. (The writer of this article is an MSNBC contributor.) Mr. Carlson, Mr. Hannity and Ms. Ingraham dismiss the hearings as a “show trial.”

“They are lying, and we are not going to help them do it,” Mr. Carlson has said. “What we will do instead is to try to tell you the truth.”
[Boldface added}

 

“POLITICO Playbook”

BY RYAN LIZZA AND EUGENE DANIELS

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

June 21, 2022

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2022/06/11/fallout-on-the-right-over-the-jan-6-hearing

— Murdoch has seen enough: Fox News’ primetime opinion mongers may be all-in on DONALD TRUMP, but RUPERT MURDOCH’s two other major organs of the right publish withering anti-Trump editorials today in response to Thursday’s hearing:

    • WSJ: “Mr. Trump betrayed his supporters by conning them on Jan. 6, and he is still doing it.”
    • NY Post: “…Trump has become a prisoner of his own ego. He can’t admit his tweeting and narcissism turned off millions. He won’t stop insisting that 2020 was ‘stolen’ even though he’s offered no proof that it’s true.…Meanwhile, reports that Trump was pleased that the Jan. 6 crowd chanted for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged — a truly reprehensible sentiment — makes him unworthy for the office. Trump can’t look past 2020. Let him remain there.”
“and on the other hand . . .”

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

June 8, 2022

The Fox News Channel says it will not carry the January 6 committee hearings live, although CBSABCNBCPBS, and CNN will. As Sawyer Hackett, a co-host of the Our America podcast, noted, the Fox News Channel “ran 1,098 primetime segments on Benghazi from the day of the attack until the committee hearings, which they carried live for more than 7 hours.” 

The Department of Homeland Security today issued a new bulletin in the National Terrorism Advisory System, stating that the U.S. “remains in a heightened threat environment.” It noted that “[t]he continued proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding current events could reinforce existing personal grievances or ideologies, and in combination with other factors, could inspire individuals to mobilize to violence.” Stories that the government is unwilling or unable to secure the southern border and the upcoming Supreme Court decision about abortion rights might lead to violence, it said.

Also, it noted: “As the United States enters mid-term election season this year, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase.”

Lachlan Murdoch: People with legitimate criticism of all the terrible things Fox News does are just haters
  • Smartmatic sued News Corp and three Fox stars for $2.7 billion for their damaging false narratives about the 2020 election. . nytimes.com, Feb. 6, 2021​
  • The Wall Street Journal editorial board urged Trump to resign to avoid a second impeachment. January 7, 2021

Lachlan Murdoch, once the ambivalent Fox heir, makes his views clear

The News Corp. co-chair, Rupert’s eldest son, left no mystery about his conservative politics in a fiery speech.

Lachlan Murdoch’s first major media moment was also his first public humiliation.

It was 2005, and the oldest son of Rupert Murdoch was on the cover of New York magazine as “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Be King.” The dishy piece outlined how the elder media mogul had undercut his anticipated successor by siding instead with a beloved top executive, Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes, on key programming decisions. Licking his wounds, Lachlan, then 34, abruptly resigned his role in the family-controlled news empire and fled New York with his wife and child for their native Australia, which he referred to as their “spiritual home.”

It was a move that cemented a public image of the tanned, tattooed surfer as an ambivalent heir. And even as he made his way back to family business, nearly a decade later, and rose again through the ranks, the image remained of a passive Gen-Xer who kept his politics quiet and his ambitions subservient to those of the swaggering conservative billionaire dad who aspired to influence power at the highest global levels.

Until last week.

In a speech in Sydney celebrating a new initiative at a conservative think tank, Lachlan Murdoch — now 50 and the co-chairman of the family’s News Corp., which owns the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, and chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation — took swipes at the “elites” whom he believes disdain traditional values. He also blasted governments for imposing mandates and business shutdowns to control the pandemic and alleged conspiratorially that “practically all the media suppressed the discovery of Hunter Biden’s laptop.”

It was a monologue that could have fit in seamlessly with the lineup of right-wing commentary served up every night by Fox News’s prime time opinion hosts — including an obscure jab at the “1619 Project.”

The New York Times won a Pulitzer for one of the project’s essays, which expounded upon the legacy of slavery. But it’s become a regular punching bag in right-wing media, and Murdoch blamed the project for stoking partisan divides by “recast[ing] American exceptionalism as racist from inception.”

And he echoed the culture-war battles raging on cable news over school curriculums by painting a dire picture of what he sees happening in Australia.

“How can we expect people to defend the values, interests and sovereignty of this nation,” Murdoch asked, “if we teach our children only our faults and none of our virtues.”

The speech was something of a tipping point for longtime watchers of the Murdoch empire, who once assumed that the children of the 91-year-old Rupert — notably Lachlan and his younger brother James — might be a moderating influence on the media properties that promoted the rise of former president Donald Trump.

Instead, James ended up leaving the company, as he made his discomfort with the rightward tack of the family business increasingly public, donating substantial funds to battle climate change, promote scientific understanding and underwrite pro-democracy initiatives.

Read More

Murdoch family discord plays out publicly

Lachlan, meanwhile, sent another powerful signal about his leanings even before his March 29 speech when he attended a book party last month celebrating former Trump attorney general William P. Barr.

The son has never enjoyed the close relationship with Trump that his father once did, and Trump has continued to complain to visitors about Fox News for its supposed disloyalty in accurately predicting on election night 2020 that Trump would lose the key state of Arizona.

More than 10 months after leaving office, former president Donald Trump maintains a powerful hold over the Republican party. (Video: Zach Purser Brown/The Washington Post, Photo: The Washington Post)

But Barr is tight with Rupert Murdoch, and he signaled an embrace of Lachlan as well at the party — thanking him by name for traveling all the way from California for the event, and adding that it was Lachlan and his father who encouraged him to write the book at a time when Barr was hesitant.

(In the book, Barr praised much of Trump’s agenda but criticized the former president for refusing to accept his election loss. Asked to elaborate about the Murdochs’ support of his book, Barr, reached by phone, said, “I don’t really want to get into that.”)

Later, Lachlan Murdoch worked the room at the upscale D.C. restaurant Tosca, packed with Trump allies such as Sens. Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton.

The younger Murdoch’s personal ideology been the subject of much curiosity as his influence has grown in his father’s empire — and as Fox’s programming has turned more heavily to opinion than straight news, and beyond standard Republican sensibilities to a stronger allegiance to Trumpism.

Murdoch was troubled last fall by trailers for prime time host Tucker Carlson’s Fox Nation special that floated specious theories that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was an inside job by the government to target Trump supporters, according to people who spoke with him. (Two prominent Fox contributors left the network in protest over the airing of the unfounded claims, and after departing Fox for CNN, veteran anchor Chris Wallace expressed discomfort with the drift of Fox’s programming.)

Yet Carlson’s special aired nonetheless on Fox Nation, the network’s streaming service. And Murdoch has otherwise repeatedly expressed pride in Fox’s programming. He declared the network last year the “loyal opposition” to a Biden administration.

It’s an apparent comfort level with controversy that one former competitor sees as a family trait.

“I have never thought that Rupert Murdoch has ever minded too much about the content of his [media outlets] provided they don’t run counter to the political and geopolitical grain of the moment,” said Jeremy Deedes, the former CEO of the Telegraph Media Group Limited, which competed in a cutthroat newspaper war with Murdoch’s Times of London decades ago.

And despite Trump’s occasional derision of Fox over election grievances — and his fleeting attempts to boost smaller upstart conservative channels — Murdoch’s network remains a crucial part of the GOP firmament.

“Fox is still the most important space for Republican members of Congress to be, and that’s true whether you are talking about 10 a.m. with Bill Hemmer, or Dana Perino, or the evening opinion shows,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist. “That’s where their voters are.”

Murdoch is seen as largely hands-off in his approach to Fox programming, and he works closely with his chief legal and policy officer, Viet Dinh, a Murdoch family friend. He has also repeatedly expressed his support for Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott.

For his speech in Sydney, to help launch the Centre for the Australian Way of Life at the right-leaning Institute of Public Affairs, Lachlan Murdoch kept his tattoo hidden under a dark suit. He had flown into Sydney on his $90 million private plane and told colleagues he planned to stay in town for several weeks — part of his new routine, since his family once again put down roots in Australia last year, frustrated by the liberal politics of Los Angeles as well as its covid restrictions.

“Accepting government interventions and absorbing record financial hardships were literally unquestionable burdens at risk of fines or imprisonment,” he complained in his speech. “All done in the blink of an eye with few checks and balances, and we are still counting the costs. Alcoholism, domestic abuse, suicide also spikes during the pandemic. Why did we accept this? It must never happen again.”

In classic Fox style, he devoted significant time to bashing rival media outlets, specifically the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “To listen to our national broadcaster or much of the media elite is to hear about a uniquely racist, selfish, slavish and monochromatic country. The reality could not be more different.,” Murdoch said.

And in closing, he urged his fellow Australians to “make sure we get all the rights back we thought we had.” It was a sign-off worthy of cable news.

 

Trump White House aide was secret author of report used to push ‘big lie’

Report on Dominion voting machines produced after 2020 election was not the work of volunteer in Trump’s post-election legal team

Weeks after the 2020 election, at least one Trump White House aide was named as secretly producing a report that alleged Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden because of Dominion Voting Systems – research that formed the basis of the former president’s wider efforts to overturn the election.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/mar/16/trump-white-house-aide-secret-author-dominion-report

Weeks after the 2020 election, at least one Trump White House aide was named as secretly producing a report that alleged Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden because of Dominion Voting Systems – research that formed the basis of the former president’s wider efforts to overturn the election.

The Dominion report, subtitled “OVERVIEW 12/2/20 – History, Executives, Vote Manipulation Ability and Design, Foreign Ties”, was initially prepared so that it could be sent to legislatures in states where the Trump White House was trying to have Biden’s win reversed.

But top Trump officials would also use the research that stemmed from the White House aide-produced report to weigh other options to return Trump to the presidency, including having the former president sign off on executive orders to authorize sweeping emergency powers.

The previously unreported involvement of the Trump White House aide in the preparation of the Dominion report raises the extraordinary situation of at least one administration official being among the original sources of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The publicly available version of the Dominion report, which first surfaced in early December 2020 on the conservative outlet the Gateway Pundit, names on the cover and in metadata as its author Katherine Friess, a volunteer on the Trump post-election legal team.

But the Dominion report was in fact produced by the senior Trump White House policy aide Joanna Miller, according to the original version of the document reviewed by the Guardian and a source familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

he original version of the Dominion report named Miller – who worked for the senior Trump adviser Peter Navarro – as the author on the cover page, until her name was abruptly replaced with that of Friess before the document was to be released publicly, the source said.

The involvement of a number of other Trump White House aides who worked in Navarro’s office was also scrubbed around that time, the source said. Friess has told the Daily Beast that she had nothing to do with the report and did not know how her name came to be on the document.

It was not clear why Miller’s name was removed from the report, which was sent to Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani on 29 November 2020, or why the White House aide’s involvement was obfuscated in the final 2 December version.

Miller did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Dominion report made a number of unsubstantiated allegations that claimed Dominion Voting Systems corruptly ensured there could be “technology glitches which resulted in thousands of votes being added to Joe Biden’s total ballot count”.

Citing unnamed Venezuelan officials, the report also pushed the conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems used software from the election company Smartmatic and had ties to “state-run Venezuelan software and telecommunications companies”.

After the Dominion report became public, Navarro incorporated the claims into his own three-part report, produced with assistance from his aides at the White House, including Miller and another policy aide, Garrett Ziegler, the source said.

Ziegler has also said on a rightwing podcast that he and others in Navarro’s office – seemingly referring to Trump White House aides Christopher Abbott and Hannah Robertson – started working on Navarro’s report about two weeks before the 2020 election took place.

“Two weeks before the election, we were doing those reports hoping that we would pepper the swing states with those,” Ziegler said of the three-part Navarro report in an appearance last July on The Professor’s Record with David K Clements.

The research in the Dominion report also formed the backbone of foreign election interference claims by the former Trump lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, who argued Trump could, as a result, assume emergency presidential powers and suspend normal law.

That included Trump’s executive order 13848, which authorized sweeping powers in the event of foreign election interference, as well as a draft executive order that would have authorized the seizure of voting machines, the Guardian has previously reported.

The claims about Venezuela in the Dominion report appear to have spurred Powell to ask Trump at a 18 December 2020 meeting at the White House – coincidentally facilitated by Ziegler – that she be appointed special counsel to investigate election fraud.

Miller’s authorship of the Dominion report was not the last time the Trump White House, or individuals in the administration, prepared materials to advance the former president’s claims about a stolen election and efforts to return himself to office.

The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack revealed last year it had found evidence the White House Communications Agency produced a letter for the Trump justice department official Jeffrey Clark to use to pressure states to decertify Biden’s election win.

 

FOX NEWS WON’T BE GETTING OUT OF A $2.7 BILLION LAWSUIT OVER ITS RIGGED VOTING MACHINE CLAIMS

An election technology company’s case against Fox News can move forward, with a judge finding “substantial basis” for the claim that Murdoch’s network “evinced a reckless disregard for the truth.”

BY CHARLOTTE KLEIN

March 9, 2022

HTTPS://WWW.VANITYFAIR.COM/NEWS/2022/03/FOX-NEWS-SMARTMATIC-LAWSUIT?

Judge denies Fox News motion to dismiss defamation suit by election-tech company Smartmatic

By Jeremy Barr

March 9, 2022

https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2022/03/09/smartmatic-fox-lawsuit-not-dismissed/

A judge allowed an election technology company’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News to proceed on Tuesday, though he dismissed specific claims made against host Jeanine Pirro and two of the network’s guests.

New York Supreme Court Judge David B. Cohen denied Fox’s motion to dismiss the 2021 lawsuit, in which the company, Smartmatic, alleged that the network and several of its on-air personalities “decimated its future business prospects” by falsely accusing it of rigging the 2020 election against Donald Trump.

At a rally on Oct. 9 in Des Moines, former president Donald Trump continued to unleash a litany of false and unproven claims of voter fraud in 2020. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Smartmatic sued Fox News Media, its parent company and several personalities in February last year, claiming it aired dozens of false statements that fed a conspiracy theory alleging the company’s election software helped Democrats steal votes. Fox News quickly filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that it had merely been reporting on newsworthy events.

In his ruling, Cohen wrote that Smartmatic has a legitimate basis to argue that “Fox News had reason to suspect that what it was broadcasting was false” when the network aired unfounded claims made by Powell and Giuliani because they could not provide evidence for their claims.

“Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs’ claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth,” Cohen wrote.

Of unfounded claims made by Giuliani, Bartiromo and Dobbs about Smartmatic, Cohen wrote that “a jury could determine that these claims were fabricated or, at the very least, that there were reasons to doubt the sources of this information.”

Cohen also wrote that “there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs’ claim that Fox News actually had information undermining any claim that the election was rigged and willfully disregarded the same” because the network had asked Smartmatic for the company’s response to a Nov. 12, 2020, statement made by a government election oversight body that the 2020 contest was “the most secure in American history.”

Despite the network’s contention that it did not make election fraud allegations directly, Cohen wrote that “since Fox News allowed allegedly defamatory statements about [Smartmatic] to be repeated on its network, a jury may therefore find that it acted with intent or reckless disregard of the truth.”

The next step in the case, a preliminary conference, will be held on May 18.

A similar lawsuit filed against Fox by election technology company Dominion Voting Systems was allowed to proceed by a Delaware judge in December.

 [Boldface added]

 

I’m a Former Russian TV Anchor. Fox News Mimics State TV.

Liz Wahl, who quit a Kremlin-funded network in disgust in 2014, writes that right-wing media stars like Tucker Carlson are at times indistinguishable from Russia’s own propaganda.

Liz Wahl

Updated Feb. 27, 2022  Published Feb. 27, 2022 

https://www.thedailybeast.com/im-a-former-russian-tv-anchor-right-wing-media-mimics-russian-media

Working in a Russian newsroom nearly a decade ago prepared me for modern day America. In both environments, conspiracy theories, false equivalencies, and half-truths infect the discourse and deform reality. In this current environment, truth and fact struggle to break through the paranoid and misinformed noise.

One thing that is clear to me: Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson, along with other right-wing media figures, are at times indistinguishable from the propaganda on my former network, RT, a Kremlin-funded cable news channel that eagerly uses American voices to push a pro-Russia agenda.

Among the Americans that currently host television shows on RT are a range of voices on the extreme ends of the left-right ideological spectrum. Scottie Nell Hughes, a former pro-Trump pundit on CNN and Fox News, hosts a show that claims to provide unbiased coverage, while Canadian actor William Shatner hosts a program where he uses his star power to interview other celebrities like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Far-left journalist Chris Hedges, meanwhile, hosts a show featuring “dissident voices,” ostensibly dedicated to the cause of anti-imperialism, yet has failed to even mention Russia’s actual attempted authoritarian land grab of a democracy.

Other American voices frequently amplified on RT include former Democratic congresswoman-turned-CPAC speaker Tulsi Gabbard, libertarian politician Ron Paul, and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)—all of whom share foreign policy positions that Russia now finds beneficial to amplify.

What these figures don’t seem to understand or ignore is that RT uses their stateside fame and clout to drive eyeballs to its YouTube channel and legitimacy to its brand.

During the Trump years, the channel routinely featured videos and friendly headlines of Trump himself and his radical supporters. Popular themes on the channel were Trump’s denigration of NATO and the European Union. One video on RT’s YouTube channel features Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn at an RT event, being interviewed by the channel’s Russia-based host, wearing an RT lanyard. The video of the event, which originally took place in 2015, was posted after Trump was elected, with the credulous headline “2013 gas attack in Syria a ‘false flag?’: Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor at RT10.” The video ostensibly served two functions: to show Flynn’s support of the Kremlin-backed station, and to use the prestige of a U.S. national security adviser to push a conspiracy theory about the origin of chemical weapons in Syria. Just this week, Flynn once again helpfully advanced Russia’s agenda by releasing a statement where he blamed President Joe Biden for “ignoring Putin’s legitimate security concerns, and the legitimate ethnic problems in Ukraine” as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine and began a full-scale invasion.

RT Anchor: Here’s Why I Quit

James Kirchick

 Even as Russian forces surrounded Ukraine, Russian media played clips of Trump calling Putin’s military strategy “genius” and “wonderful.” And to strengthen Russia’s case for invading a democracy, it played footage of Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praising Putin and clips from Fox News host Tucker Carlson proudly siding with Russia.

In fact, Carlson’s praise of Putin has been a recurring theme on his show in recent weeks. “Why would we take Ukraine’s side and not Russia’s side? I’m totally confused,” asked Carlson, seemingly unsatisfied when his guest reminded him that the U.S. is for democracies and against authoritarian regimes.

In another bizarre attempt to defend Putin as morally superior to Democrats, Carlson asked his audience, “Has Putin ever called me racist? Has he ever threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle class job in my town to Russia?” The question appealed to his audience’s aversion to all things liberalism and its right-wing populist grievances about immigration and the economy.

This sort of blunt support for Putin was atypical of even a Russian newsroom.

While the American voices Russian media uses to influence Western audiences hail from the far-left and the far-right, the poison of disinformation asymmetrically originates on the ideological right. Research has demonstrated that followers of the former president stick to hyper-partisan and conspiracy-laden sources such as Breitbart, Info Wars, and Fox News. During Trump’s election and throughout his presidency, the rightwing ecosystem grew more conspiratorial, extreme, and anti-democratic. It is during this time that Russian media and right-wing media became indistinguishable.

Today, the chief purveyors of pro-Russian disinformation in the U.S. are now on Fox News. I have warned that quite often the pro-Putin claims on Fox and RT essentially mimic each other. But much of the American public, and even many in the mainstream media, fail to realize the extent to which this disinformation has become part of the fabric of the new media landscape, and therefore, American political discourse.

At this point, zeroing in on RT as the source of authoritarian disinformation is a red herring. Pro-Putin, pro-Trump, and anti-democratic messaging has been ingrained into our government through conspiracy theorists and useful idiots currently sitting in U.S. Congress, like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn. The narratives blare into the homes of millions through television channels like Newsmax, One America News, and most consequentially, Fox News, the most-watched cable news channel on the planet. Far from being a problem that impacts both political parties equally, the alt-right media ecosystem including mainstream figures like Carlson air Putin-brand messaging aimed to break down democracy.

How Tucker Carlson Is Boosting Russia’s New Propaganda War

Julia Davis

 Today, pro-Putin and pro-Trump media sources online and on cable TV promote each other’s anti-democratic agendas. The messages are amplified on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and newer to the scene, TikTok, where false or misleading videos about the invasion of Ukraine have racked up millions of views. Authoritarian disinformation is amorphous, diffuse, and has very real impacts on America’s beliefs. Recent polling shows Republicans view Putin more favorably than Democrats, perceiving him to be a “stronger leader” than President Biden. Such polling further shows how both Putin and American right-wing media’s messaging appeals to Christian nationalism, white supremacy, and admiration for strong-man authoritarians.

Of course, another narrative that is guaranteed to circulate on social media and even among academic circles is the fallacy that all narratives are created equal; that the pro-democracy U.S. is ultimately no better than the authoritarian Russian regime. These voices and these narratives get spotlighted on Russian state media and among a sprawling network of sympathetic outlets, bots, and trolls; and will be parroted by the likes of Carlson to millions of viewers that have already drifted towards authoritarianism.

Fox and RT have both already used the conflict to score political points against Biden and his allies. As the pro-democracy world watches Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s bravery and resolve defending against the invasion of his country, the far-right/Putin media alliance has accused him of being a “globalist puppet of Soros and the Clintons.”

And that’s just a preview of the coming deluge of “whataboutism,” a tactic I saw weaponized inside a Russian newsroom. It holds power by tapping its ability to draw support for false equivalencies, in which U.S. and NATO’s attempted takedown of the Taliban in Afghanistan is equal to Russia’s hostile takeover of a democracy. There will be attempts to change the subject and absolve Putin of accountability by asking, “What about Iraq? What about Afghanistan?” Engaging in this sort of discourse holds powerful propaganda value because of its element of truth: that the U.S. is not historically blameless.

Russia Is Begging for a Putin Interview with Tucker Carlson

Julia Davis

 Another propaganda tactic already being mobilized is the false accusations that pro-democracy voices are engaging in some sort of new McCarthyism. Similarly, there are accusations of a “Red Scare,” accusing those who call out Putin apologists as being “Russophobes.”

The intermixed right-wing media and Russian media will attempt to gaslight you. They will point to some of its truthful coverage in Ukraine to deny the fact that its most-watched propagandists praised Putin in the lead-up to the invasion and continue to undermine his opponents.

Responding to Russia’s invasion of her country, former member of Ukrainian Parliament, Nataliya Katser-Buchkovska, explained to me what’s at stake. She has spent her career working to build democracy in Ukraine and accelerating the country toward renewable energy. “This is an existential crisis, the struggle of the past against the future, democracy and autocracy, truth and lies.” It’s a struggle all democracies now face.

 

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 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-cable-cabinet/2022/01/09/96fac488-6fe6-11ec-b9fc-b394d592a7a6_story.html

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. 

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.

Read More

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.”

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.

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.

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.

 

2021:

 

[Excerpts:]

A judge on Thursday rejected a request from Fox News to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems over baseless claims made against the company during the 2020 presidential election, allowing the suit to move forward.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis said it was “reasonably conceivable” for the Denver-based voting-machine company to have a defamation claim.

“The Court can infer that Fox intended to avoid the truth,” Davis wrote in a 52-page ruling. “Whether Dominion ultimately will prove Fox’s actual malice by clear and convincing evidence is irrelevant on a motion to dismiss. … Accordingly, Fox’s Motion should be denied.”

Dominion filed the lawsuit against Fox News earlier this year, claiming that some of its highest-profile on-air talent helped elevate false charges that the company had changed votes to favor Joe Biden over then-President Donald Trump.

The lawsuit claims that hosts such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro brought Trump allies onto their shows to spread lies asserting that Dominion was using algorithms in voting machines that were created in Venezuela to rig multiple elections for Hugo Chávez, the late president.

Dominion alerted Fox News and its anchors to information disproving the false claims being broadcast against the company, according to the judge. The allegations from Dominion in the lawsuit show that Fox was given “signs indicating the reports were false,” Davis wrote.

“Fox possessed countervailing evidence of election fraud from the Department of Justice, election experts, and Dominion at the time it had been making its statements,” the judge wrote. “The fact that, despite this evidence, Fox continued to publish its allegations against Dominion, suggests Fox knew the allegations were probably false.”

The judge’s ruling, considered a major win for Dominion, comes about a year after the company was the subject of many baseless accusations about election fraud following November 2020. After his loss, Trump and his allies spread false claims that, as he put it, voting software is “used in states where tens of thousands of votes were stolen from us and given to Biden.” When he was still on Twitter, Trump, who described Dominion as “horrible, inaccurate and anything but secure,” retweeted a baseless report that the voting-machine system had “deleted 2.7 million Trump votes nationwide.”Election results under attack: Here are the facts

There is no evidence that any voting systems were compromised, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, also confirmed that he had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

The lawsuit specifies how Trump allies such as Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell were given platforms on shows hosted by Carlson, Hannity and Pirro to spread the false claims of election fraud. Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs, whose show was canceled earlier this year, are also mentioned in the lawsuit.

Dominion pointed to how Hannity and Dobbs “brought on Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell to assert their claims that Dominion rigged the election by changing votes in its machines.” Another instance mentioned in the lawsuit involved when Carlson brought Lindell, the founder of MyPillow, onto his show to talk about his ban from Twitter, only for him to spread false claims of election fraud against Dominion.

“Carlson endorsed Mr. Lindell’s claim that Mr. Lindell found the machine fraud and had all the evidence,” according to the complaint.

Dominion eventually sent an email to Fox personalities and producers titled, “SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: FACTS & RUMORS,” the judge noted. Election officials and experts also went on the network to emphasize how there was “absolutely no evidence” that Dominion changed votes during the election.

“Despite these efforts, Fox continued to promote known lies on its broadcasts, websites, social media accounts and subscription service platforms,” Davis wrote. “Mr. Dobbs, Ms. Bartiromo, and Mr. Hannity also continued to give Ms. Powell and Mr. Giuliani a platform to disseminate lies about Dominion by hosting them on their shows. Mr. Dobbs, Ms. Bartiromo and Mr. Hannity likewise endorsed and repeated those lies.”

The lawsuit claimed that Bartiromo “continued promoting lies even though she had been specifically notified that independent fact-checkers, government officials and election security experts debunked those lies about Dominion.”

“Moreover, Ms. Bartiromo had actual knowledge that Georgia conducted a hand recount of every paper ballot,” Davis wrote.

The network has defended its coverage, arguing that media must be able to fully report a story that involves claims that hit at the core of U.S. democracy. The judge rejected Fox’s argument that some of its top personalities were reporting the news with flair, saying that “Fox’s reporting comprised opinion ‘mixed’ with false facts.”

“Although Fox classifies its reporters’ remarks as ‘commentary’ that used ‘loose and hyperbolic rhetoric’ for entertainment value, even loose and hyperbolic language can be actionable if it rests on false statements of fact undisclosed to viewers,” the judge said.

The lawsuit against Fox is one of several that Dominion has brought stemming from false claims after the election. Separate defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion against Powell, a former Trump campaign lawyer, and Giuliani, Trump’s former attorney, previously survived motions to dismiss in federal court in Washington.

Dominion isn’t the only election technology company to sue Fox over its election coverage. Smartmatic Corp. is suing the network for $2.7 billion in damages, as part of a lawsuit that also names Pirro, Bartiromo and Dobbs as defendants. Fox has also requested to dismiss that lawsuit.

The Dominion defamation lawsuit against Fox will continue toward a final judgment, with both sides gathering evidence in the case.

[Boldface added]

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICAN CONSERVATISM?

The rich philosophical tradition I fell in love with has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/brooks-true-conservatism-dead-fox-news-voter-suppression

 

Analysis | Trump critics keep departing Fox News

Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes are merely the latest. Many were reporters who criticized stolen-election claims.

By Aaron Blake

November 24, 2021

[Excerpts:]

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/22/procession-trump-critics-who-have-departed-fox-news/

The big one before 2020 was Shepard Smith, who abruptly resigned in 2019. He did so after being among the network’s biggest critics of Trump and clashing with Carlson, who has become the dominant on-air force at the network as he has pushed conspiracy theories and coronavirus vaccine skepticism.

The 2020 election and its immediate aftermath have led to more notable departures from the comparatively few voices willing to take on Trump and tell the truth about the election results.

Leland Vittert, an anchor and reporter, had drawn Trump’s ire alongside Smith as of 2019. In mid-November 2020, he engaged in a heated on-air conversation with a Trump campaign spokeswoman over the campaign’s fraud claims. Shortly after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, in one of his final on-air appearances, Vittert described being confronted by pro-Trump supporters demanding loyalty. After he did not appear on air for months, Fox announced in April that the network had “mutually and amicably parted ways” with Vittert, who now works for NewsNation.

The situation was similar with another lower-profile Fox anchor who had criticized Trump, Jedediah Bila. Shortly after the election, she said of Trump: “To make a statement about an election being stolen or an election being rigged, that can be a dangerous statement. I haven’t seen any evidence.” She talked about how it was going to be “incumbent” upon Trump to concede the election in the then increasingly obvious absence of voter-fraud evidence. The next month, her temporary replacement on “Fox & Friends Weekend,” Rachel Campos-Duffy, responded approvingly to those who cheered her taking Bila’s role. Fox announced Bila’s departure in May, again saying that the two sides had “mutually and amicably parted ways.”

In January, the departures included two key figures on Fox’s “decision desk” who had angered viewers by declaring Joe Biden the winner in Arizona on election night: executive Bill Sammon and political editor Chris Stirewalt. Sammon described his exit as a planned retirement; Stirewalt, who was among nearly 20 staffers laid off, has since sharply criticized the network’s coverage of Trump.

Another example was White House correspondent Kristin Fisher. Fisher, like Vittert and Smith, drew Trump’s ire for her aggressive questioning of his coronavirus response. In mid-November, she debunked the voter-fraud claims made by Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani in a news conference at the Republican National Committee. In early December, she ran down the many rebuttals of Trump’s claims, including from Trump-appointed judges and Trump’s own officials, including former attorney general William P. Barr. Fisher left the network in May and now works for CNN.

Smartmatic, an election technology company that faced baseless accusations of rigging the 2020 election, has filed a similar lawsuit against Fox News. [boldface added]

The legal battle against disinformation from right-wing media outlets is expanding.

How the Decline of Murdoch’s Tabloid Empire Makes Fox News Even More Dangerous

The hacking scandal finally caught up with the London tabs, turning them into a worthless asset. Now the mogul’s moth

Clive Irving

Published Jun. 23, 2021 

https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-the-fall-of-rupert-murdochs-tabloid-empire-makes-fox-news-even-more-dangerous  [Excepts relating to Murdock and Fox News]

Fox News is for Murdoch now what the tabloids were 40 years ago, a profit gusher that keeps his business prosperous. The latest quarterly numbers for Fox show revenues at $3.22 billion, and growing. Furthermore, the New York Post has become a profitable part of the Murdoch empire, especially as it joins Fox in laundering Murdoch’s preferred political agenda.

In the post-election anarchy it briefly seemed that the Fox audience would be drawn to the more wing-nut channels, Newsmax and One America News, but that did not happen, as Fox reasserted its fealty to believers in The Big Lie. That maneuver has been adroitly orchestrated with the help of Tucker Carlson, who tops cable-news primetime ratings with an average nightly viewership of 2.94 million.

And the reach of the pernicious Fox News megaphone is growing, through streaming and podcasts. Carlson, for example, powers up Fox’s streaming service, Fox Nation, as he appears to be positioning himself as a George Wallace for the 21st century, peddling genetic white supremacy. That deliberately opens up clear space between him and Sean Hannity, who runs second as he remains the obtuse Trump ventriloquist.

More and more, Murdoch looks like being a willing accomplice and enabler in a slow-motion Republican coup d’état. That’s a far more dangerous game than any he has played before, but it’s the only one he’s left with.

Smartmatic sued News Corp and three Fox stars for $2.7 billion for their damaging false narratives about the 2020 election.

Feb. 6, 2021​

nytimes.com

 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board urged Trump to resign to avoid a second impeachment.

January 7, 2021

[Excerpt:]

The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, the American flagship of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire, denounced President Trump on Thursday for inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol, declaring his behavior “impeachable” and encouraging Mr. Trump to resign his office to prevent a second impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House.

In an unsigned article titled “DonaldTrump’s Final Days,” the Journal’s editorial page — a bellwether for the conservative establishment — excoriated the president for “an assault on the constitutional process of transferring power after an election” and said “this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure.”

“If Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign,” the Journal wrote, concluding, “It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.”

2020:

“The collection of anecdotes, stories, and sayings that follow aren’t intended to encourage the cruel purveyors of the smear and “Big Lie” techniques familiar to the politics of hate.
Rather, they’re meant as a modest guideline, to help the reader visualize the impressive heights to which American campaigns, elections and their participants could soar by recognizing the agonizing depths to which they’ve often sunk.”

— Jack Mitchell, author of How to Get Elected (1992), an anecdotal history of mudslinging, red-baiting, vote-stealing and dirty tricks in American politics.