It’s Not Enough

Published: April 21, 2023

By Jim Lichtman
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Photo: Pete Marovich for The New York Times

In a courtroom in Wilmington, Delaware; with the jurors and judge seated waiting for the opening arguments to begin in Dominion Voting Systems versus Fox News Corporation, the two sides announced, what is believed to be the largest defamation suit in US history: $787 million is to be paid to Dominion.

It’s not enough. And it’s not just about the money.

The crux of the suit centered on Fox “News hosts” regularly spreading an election conspiracy alleging that Dominion manipulated the 2020 election results by flipping votes from former-president Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

It was a lie that was regularly circulated on Fox by Trump allies Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and others.

What made the lies even more damning was the fact . . . fact that Fox hosts, Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jean Pirro, and Fox executives knew the truth as emails shared among them attested, and refused to acknowledge that truth on air.

To say Fox’s behavior was reprehensible is putting it mildly. And because of advancing misinformation and lies about their voting machines, Dominion wasn’t going to sit with it mildly either. The company’s reputation was attacked; it lost business, and many of its employees were harassed by protestors. So, Dominion sued the cable company giant for $1.6 billion. An hour or two before the trial was to begin, attorneys on both sides settled for just under $800 million.

In a statement, Fox said, “We are pleased to have settled our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.”

Then, without a molecule of shame, Fox adds, “This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”

(Dear Fox People: Lying is not a journalistic standard.)

Even owner Rupert Murdoch admitted that claims of Dominion’s manipulation were “really crazy,” and said that Fox hosts “endorsed” the conspiracy theories.

However, what disturbs me most is that there was no apology by Fox: not from Carlson, Ingraham, Bartiromo, Dobbs, Hannity, Pirro, Fox executives, and no apology from Rupert Murdoch.

While Fox was held accountable and forced to pay an un-Godly amount of money to settle the case, there was zero mea culpa, and no promise to live up to their commitment to high standards their lawyers suggest.

Journalism is a public trust. (Technically, Fox “news hosts” aren’t journalists . . . not even close, but that’s what their attorneys imply.)

All media have an obligation to present the truth to the public as accurately as possible. Honesty and fairness should always be paramount. Any journalist—or “news host” who fails to keep faith with the public trust by willingly disseminating false information should bear the harshest public censure and financial damages.

Dominion was awarded the financial damages, but they didn’t get the apology.

Will Carlson, Ingraham, Bartiromo, Dobbs, Hannity, Pirro, Fox executives, and Murdoch learn a lesson from their recklessness?

Critics have said, No.

With the unquestionable power Fox wields, I hope they will, because they have a moral imperative to do nothing less.

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