Dominion Voting Systems lowered the boom on Fox News yesterday. Dominion has asked for a summary judgment in its suit against Fox. The brief filed yesterday in support of the motion is a doozy. You can read it here, with a few redactions. The brief makes it abundantly clear that the Fox News bobbleheads knew good and well that what Fox News was presenting about Dominion voting machines was nonsense.
This gets to the heart of what I wrote a couple of days ago about reckless disregard for the truth. See also With Actual Malice and Reckless Disregard. The New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) ruling gave news organizations considerable protection from defamation suits, particularly when a reporter gets facts about a public figure wrong. Sullivan allows for honest mistakes. But Fox News hosts and management collaborated to present lies that they knew were lies to their viewers. This is even worse than “reckless disregard.”
It may be that it was interviewees spewing the lies, not the on-air Fox personalities. But the brief presents examples of Fox managers and hosts reprimanding colleagues for fact checking. Aaron Blake at WaPo:
The filing repeatedly shows Fox News hosts and superiors objecting to how their colleagues fact-checked the Trump team’s claims. In one example, host Neil Cavuto cut away from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who had claimed Democrats took positions on voting issues because they were “welcoming fraud” and “illegal voting.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Cavuto said, adding, “Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this. I want to make sure that maybe they do have something to back that up.”
The filing says Fox News executive Raj Shah’s team notified senior leadership that Cavuto’s actions amounted to a “Brand Threat.” The next day, another executive, Porter Berry, noted Newsmax was going after Cavuto and said, “They are just whacking us. Smart on their part.”
Because the Fox News business model depends on telling their viewers what they want to hear. If Fox isn’t giving them enough red meat, viewers will go elsewhere.
See also Michelle Goldberg, What Fox News Says When You’re Not Listening.