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Dominion defamation trial against Fox News to proceed

A US judge says a trial in the $2.4 billion defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against the Murdoch media empire’s Fox Corp and Fox News can proceed with jury selection after a delay.

Apr 18, 2023, updated Apr 18, 2023
Rupert Murdoch has stepped down from his leadership roles at Fox and News Corp. (Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Rupert Murdoch has stepped down from his leadership roles at Fox and News Corp. (Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis did not provide a reason for the resumption on Tuesday rather than on Monday of the trial, stemming from Fox’s airing of claims that Dominion’s machines were used to rig the 2020 US presidential election in favour of Democrat Joe Biden over Republican-then president Donald Trump.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday that Fox had been pursuing a possible settlement.

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal also reported that Fox was pursuing settlement talks, citing sources.

After jury selection, which began last week, is completed on Tuesday, opening statements to the 12-member panel would then be scheduled to take place on Tuesday, the judge said.
Dominion sued Fox Corp and Fox News.

The trial is one of the most closely watched US defamation cases in years, involving a leading cable news outlet with numerous conservative commentators.

The primary question for jurors is whether Fox knowingly spread false information or recklessly disregarded the truth, the standard of “actual malice” that Dominion must show to prevail in a defamation case.

Rupert Murdoch, the chair of Fox Corp, is set to testify during the trial, along with a parade of Fox executives and on-air hosts including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro.

The trial is considered a test of whether Fox’s coverage crossed the line between ethical journalism and the pursuit of ratings, as Dominion alleges and Fox denies.

Fox has said the $US1.6 billion in damages being sought by Dominion is unrealistic and based on flawed economic modelling.

An expert report commissioned by Dominion attributed scores of lost contracts to Fox’s coverage although much of the report remains under seal.

Fox Corp reported nearly $US14 billion in annual revenue last year.

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Fox claimed in filing on Sunday that Dominion had agreed to knock off more than $US500 million of its damages claim.

Fox’s filing cited a Friday email from a Dominion lawyer saying that Dominion would not pursue its lost profit claim at the trial.

A Dominion representative disputed that characterisation on Monday, saying in an email that the company’s damages have not changed.

Dominion has said Fox’s conduct was damaging to US democracy and that the network must be held accountable, while Fox said on Friday that Dominion’s lawsuit was a threat to press freedom.

Davis on Wednesday sanctioned Fox News, handing Dominion a fresh chance to gather evidence after Fox withheld records until the eve of the trial.

The evidence to be presented in the trial includes recordings of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, saying in pre-taped Fox appearances that he did not have any evidence to back up the allegations of election rigging by Dominion.

The recordings were made by a former Fox producer in her separate lawsuit against the network.

Davis said he would also very likely tap an outside investigator to probe Fox’s late disclosure of the evidence and take whatever steps necessary to remedy the situation, which he described as troubling.

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