Ten of Diamonds: Lou Dobbs, podcaster (1945 – 2024): Promoted Trump’s Big Lie

 
What Happened to Lou Dobbs? News Anchor Passes Away

>Disheeta Maheshwari
Fri, July 19, 2024

https://www.yahoo.com/news/happened-lou-dobbs-news-anchor-111653588.html
 

The Rise and Precipitous Fall of Lou Dobbs:

Dobbs, quoting his own book, “The Trump Century” (2020):
“If president Trump can win again, he would join Winston Churchill and Alexander the Great among the greatest leaders of world history.”
“And if he falls short, well, there is no point in considering the possibility. He’s a winner — the winner.”
independent.co.uk, Sept. 24, 2020
After Trump’s loss, Dobbs took his propaganda-like praise of President Trump to a higher level, asking “. . . why not just say we’re not going to accept the results of this election? It’s outrageous.” huffpost.com, Jan. 14, 2021

“Lou Dobbs Tonight” became a frequent clearinghouse for baseless theories of 2020 election fraud, including false claims against voting systems technology maker Smartmatic for fraudulently changing the outcome of the 2020 election. ​

A legal demand by Smartmatic forced Fox News and  Dobbs to debunk those claims on-air (washingtonpost.com, Dec. 19, 2020). Smartmatic then brought a $2.7 billion lawsuit for damages followed, after which Fox News dropped Dobbs. nytimes.com, Feb. 6, 2021

Truth and Consequences: 

Fox News Media management canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” the most-watched show on Fox Business Network. No reason was given. Dobbs’s cancellation has left many Fox staffers mystified, considering his show’s viewership, leaving many to speculate that it could be connected to Dobbs’s potential liability in a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit filed last week.

The lawsuit accuses him and several Fox colleagues of spreading “disinformation” about election-technology company Smartmatic as part of an effort to keep then-President Trump’s hopes for a second term alive. washingtonpost.com, Feb 8, 2021

Conspiracy theories, election rigging, and support for democratic norms,” Research and Politics
July-September 2020: 1–9, Bethany Albertson and Kimberly Guiler https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168020959859

 

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Boldface added]

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

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/02/25/business/media/fox-news-dominion-tucker-carlson.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Carlson agreed, the filings show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[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.”

Judge orders two lawyers who filed suit challenging 2020 election to pay hefty fees: ‘They need to take responsibility’

By Rosalind S. Helderman

November 23, 2021 
[Excerpts:]

A federal judge has ordered two Colorado lawyers who filed a lawsuit late last year challenging the 2020 election results to pay nearly $187,000 to defray the legal fees of groups they sued, arguing that the hefty penalty was proper to deter others from using frivolous suits to undermine the democratic system.

“As officers of the Court, these attorneys have a higher duty and calling that requires meaningful investigation before prematurely repeating in court pleadings unverified and uninvestigated defamatory rumors that strike at the heart of our democratic system and were used by others to foment a violent insurrection that threatened our system of government,” Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter wrote.

The two argued that a scheme was engineered by the voting machine vendor Dominion Voting Systems; the tech company Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan; and elected officials in four states. They had sought $160 billion in damages. (Boldface added]

Their case was dismissed in April. In August, Neureiter ruled that the attorneys had violated their ethical obligations by filing it in the first place, arguing that the duo had run afoul of legal rules that prohibit clogging the courts with frivolous motions and lodging information in court that is not true. At the time, he called their suit “the stuff of which violent insurrections are made,” alleging they made little effort to determine the truth of their conspiratorial claims before filing them in court. He ordered them to pay the legal fees of all of the many entities they had sued.

 

Judge rejects Fox News request to dismiss Dominion Voting’s defamation lawsuit over election claims

By Timothy Bella

December 17, 2021 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/12/17/judge-fox-news-dominion-lawsuit-election/

[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]

 

 

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. [Boldface added]

“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.” [Boldface added]

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. [Boldface added]

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. [Boldface added]

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.

 

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.

 [/expand]

 

Courting G.O.P.’s Mainstream and Extreme, McCarthy Plots Rise to Speaker

The top House Republican is attempting a series of political contortions to try to secure his place in a party that has shifted under his feet.

By Annie Karni and Jonathan Weisman

Feb. 24, 2022

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/us/politics/kevin-mcarthy-speaker.html?referringSource=articleShare

Last week, the former Fox Business personality Lou Dobbs, who carries sway with Mr. Trump, was musing on a podcast with one of the right’s most pro-Trump voices, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, that Mr. McCarthy was a “RINO” — one of the former president’s favorite insults for people he considers to be “Republican in name only” — who had no business being speaker.

“The party needs strength,” Mr. Dobbs told Mr. Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking of a minor. “It needs vision. It needs energy, vibrancy and new blood in leadership. It’s that simple.”

 

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 . . . .

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)

Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo and former business host Lou Dobbs will both remain defendants in the lawsuit, which alleges that dozens of false statements about Smartmatic were made on Fox programs.

[Boldface added]

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.” [Boldface added]

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.

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.

“American history is a record of small groups of people who keep remaking this country over and over, and who reveal to us all that the perpetual remaking is the greatest statement of fidelity to our creed and our national purpose, which is not to be like Russia, white and stagnant and oligarchic, or like China, monoethnic and authoritarian and centralized, but to be more like America, hybrid and dynamic and democratic and free to be remade.”

— Eric Liu