Fox News: the high price of peddling lies

Murdoch is ‘unlikely to change his ways’ despite record settlement

Tucker Carlson
Tucker Carlson has been shown the door at the network
(Image credit: Janos Kummer/Getty Images)

It came as a disappointment to those awaiting a “blockbuster courtroom drama”, said Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. In a last-minute deal last week, Fox News paid out a record $787.5m to settle a defamation case brought by Dominion Voting Systems.

America’s most watched cable news channel had repeatedly aired false claims that Dominion helped rig the 2020 election to steal victory from Donald Trump.

The wonder is that Fox didn’t settle earlier. The release of thousands of internal Fox documents through the pre-trial discovery process established some time ago that its executives and presenters knew perfectly well that the stolen election claims were baseless.

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Fox has now had to pay for that deceit, but there was no humiliating trial and no apology. The network even had the nerve to claim that the settlement reflected its “continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards”.

It would have been fun to see Rupert Murdoch and other senior Fox figures on the witness stand, said Noah Berlatsky in The Independent, but the settlement has provided some accountability. The Dominion suit, along with others the network is facing from shareholders and from the voting machine company Smartmatic, will make Fox think twice about peddling lies again.

It’s not the first time Murdoch has been stung, said John Gapper in the FT. The phone hacking scandal also cost him dearly. But the media magnate is unlikely to change his ways at this point. His buccaneering, aggressive style has brought him “big rewards”: it’s how he built Fox, turned The Sun into a bestselling tabloid and established Sky television.

“Rupert never wallows or reflects too much,” says one insider. “He fires a couple of people and moves on.”

In this case, it’s Tucker Carlson, Fox’s biggest star, who has got the chop, said Margaret Sullivan in The Guardian. Liberals won’t mourn his departure. With a show that attracts more than three million viewers, Carlson has been “America’s chief fomenter of populist resentments, its go-to guy for the politics of grievance”. Anything that reduces his influence is welcome.

His critics should temper their glee, said The Economist. Only six years ago, after all, they were dancing on the grave of Carlson’s prime-time predecessor Bill O’Reilly, who was fired by Fox over sexual harassment claims. Fox survived that high-profile exit and continued to achieve massive ratings with the help of Carlson. The reality is that it won’t take Murdoch’s network long “to find someone else to thrill its viewers and enrage American liberals”.

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