Speed Reads

'Please get her fired'

Tucker Carlson, other Fox News stars privately mocked Trump's stolen election claims, Dominion suit shows

Fox News star hosts and top executives privately disparaged former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, even as Fox News promoted some of those same fraud claims on the air, Dominion Voting Systems argues in court papers filed Thursday. The filing is part of Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corporation, in Delaware State Superior Court. The suit is scheduled to go to trial in April

Dominion's partially redacted filing includes text messages and depositions from Fox founder Rupert Murdoch and other top executives, and between Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity. "Not a single Fox witness testified that they believe any of the allegations about Dominion are true," Dominion says in its 192-page filing. The document alleges that Fox News, losing viewers angry over its early coverage of Trump's loss, highlighted the false fraud claims to keep up with Newsmax, OANN, and other unabashedly pro-Trump networks. 

Texts from Carlson, for one prominent example, would seem to bolster that case. Carlson referred to Trump as a "demonic force" after the election and called pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell an "unguided missile" who is "dangerous as hell" and was obviously "lying" about vote-fraud conspiracy theories. "Our viewers are good people and they believe it," he added. 

But when Fox News correspondent Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked Trump's vote fraud claims in a tweet, Carlson texted Ingraham and Hannity: "Please get her fired. Seriously ... It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It's measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke." Heinrich had deleted her tweet by the following morning. 

Dominion has to prove that Fox executives and TV personalities purposefully "spread and endorsed" allegations they knew to be false, harming Dominion's business and reputation. In a countersuit also filed Tuesday, Fox Corp. argues that Dominion is seeking an exaggerated amount of money to try and stifle constitutionally protected speech. Fox says Trump's election-fraud claims were objectively newsworthy and got balanced coverage.

Proving that Fox acted with "actual malice" — knowingly spreading harmful lies or failing to do due diligence — is a difficult burden to meet and often fails in court, The New York Times reports. "But legal experts said Dominion's arguments were stronger than most," thanks to damning text messages and the fruit of eight months of depositions.

Update Feb. 17, 2023: Fox News said in a statement: "There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but 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 New York Times v. Sullivan."