Former US President Donald Trump, who has announced a third bid for the presidency in 2024, hosts a New Year’s Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, US on December 31, 2022.
Marco Bello | Reuters
In the hours after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Fox Corp executives vetoed former President Donald Trump’s attempt to appear on the network’s airwaves, according to court documents filed Thursday.
The documents allege that the former president tuned into personality Lou Dobbs on the air on the afternoon of Jan. 6, but executives blocked Trump’s efforts to appear on air.
“Fox refused to allow President Trump on the air tonight because ‘it would be irresponsible to put him on the air’ and ‘it could negatively affect many people,'” the documents said.
The documents were publicly released for the first time this week as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox Corp and its cable TV networks. Dominion filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox and its right-wing cable networks, Fox News and Fox Business, arguing that the networks and their anchors made false claims that the company’s voting machines manipulated the results of the 2020 election. The case is pending in the Delaware Supreme Court.
Dominion, Fox Corp and Fox News filed their motions for summary judgment this week, which revealed evidence from months of discovery and depositions that had until now been kept private. Fox News anchors as well as top Fox Corp executives, including Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch, have been questioned in recent months.
The evidence also showed that top Fox News anchors, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, expressed disbelief at the fraud allegations against Dominion that they rigged the election. In particular, the hosts questioned allegations of fraud by pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Ingraham said in a message to Carlson, “Sydney is completely crazy. No one will work with her. So is Rudy,” according to the documents.
Fox and its networks have vehemently denied the allegations. In court filings Thursday, Fox Corp said it “had no role in the creation and publication of the challenged statements — all of which were broadcast on either the Fox Business Network or the Fox News Channel.”
Fox News, meanwhile, reiterated in court filings that it has “fulfilled its commitment to fully inform and comment fairly” on allegations that Dominion rigged the election against Trump.
“There will be much noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the heart of this case remains freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights granted by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan Fox said in a statement released Thursday.
Dominion said in court filings that Fox and its hosts felt pressured by the audience’s reaction on election night in 2020 when they called the state of Arizona for Biden. That pressure was evident in text messages between Fox’s top personalities in the weeks following the election, which ran until Jan. 6.
The night before Jan. 6, Rupert Murdoch told Fox News CEO Susan Scott, “It’s been suggested that in prime time, three people should independently or together say something like ‘the election is over and Joe Biden won,'” according to court documents. If we do, “we’ll go a long way toward stopping the Trump myth that the election was stolen,” he added.
On the evening of January 6, Carlson sent a message to his producer, calling Trump a “demonic force. Destroyer. But he will not destroy us,” court documents show.
The case has been closely watched by First Amendment watchers and pundits because defamation lawsuits often center around a single lie, but in this case Dominion cited a long list of examples of Fox TV anchors making false claims even after being proven false. Media companies are often broadly protected by the First Amendment.
The trial is due to begin in mid-April.