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Judge says he can compel Rupert Murdoch to testify in Fox News defamation trial

Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch can be forced to testify in the Fox News defamation trial scheduled to start on April 17, a judge said Wednesday.

Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, after network hosts and guests pushed false conspiracy theories linking Dominion to voter fraud. Fox News, which contends it was just reporting on the conspiracies rather than presenting them as factual, submitted a letter on Tuesday with the names of potential witnesses, including hosts Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Maria Bartiromo and Fox News Chief Executive Suzanne Scott; Rupert Murdoch and his son, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, were not on the list.

On Wednesday, Dominion submitted a letter to Judge Eric Davis of Delaware Superior Court, who is overseeing the trial, writing that Fox News previously said the Murdochs could be compelled to give in-person testimony. In response, Davis said if Dominion issues a subpoena for Rupert Murdoch or any other corporate officer, he "would not quash it" and "would compel them to come." Dominion and Fox News have both "made these witnesses very relevant," he added.

Fox News had argued that Rupert Murdoch and other network executives didn't need to testify because they already gave filmed depositions, and in a statement Wednesday, a Fox Corp. spokesperson said Dominion "demanding witnesses who had nothing to do with the challenged broadcasts is just the latest example of their political crusade in search of a financial windfall."

During the discovery process, emails and messages from Fox News hosts and executives were made public, showing that privately, many didn't believe in the conspiracies about voter fraud being peddled, and mocked the people pushing them; host Tucker Carlson, for example, called Sidney Powell, a lawyer for former President Donald Trump, a "complete nut."