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Unsealed court exhibits show Rupert Murdoch questioned if Fox hosts ‘went too far’ 



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Fox News channel sign is seen at the News Corporation building in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Jack Queen and Helen Coster

(Reuters) – Fox Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch questioned whether hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham “went too far” in their coverage of voter fraud claims, according to an email contained in a trove of new exhibits in Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox that became public Tuesday.

Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News Networks in March 2021 in Delaware state court, alleging the cable TV network amplified false claims that Dominion voting machines were used to rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election against Republican Donald Trump and in favor of his Democratic rival Joe Biden, who won the election.

Fox has defended its coverage, arguing it had a right to report on election-fraud allegations made by Trump and his lawyers and saying Dominion’s lawsuit would stifle freedom of the press.

The exhibits unsealed Tuesday contain evidence underlying the parties’ dueling motions for summary judgment, in which they seek pretrial rulings in their favor. Those filings were made public in February.

Dominion’s summary judgment motion cited emails and statements in which Murdoch and other top Fox executives say the claims made about Dominion on-air were false – part of the voting machine company’s effort to prove the network either knew the statements it aired were false or recklessly disregarded their accuracy.

That filing included excerpts of deposition testimony by Murdoch, who acknowledged under questioning from Dominion lawyers that some Fox hosts had “endorsed” the idea that the election was stolen. Murdoch said in the deposition he believed Biden won fairly.

Fox argued in court filings that its coverage of claims by Trump’s lawyers were inherently newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The network claimed that Dominion’s “extreme” interpretation of defamation law would “stop the media in its tracks.”

The network said in a statement Tuesday that the documents show Dominion using “distortions and misinformation” to “smear Fox News and trample on free speech.” 

The trial, set to begin April 17 and last five weeks, could reveal further details about Fox’s internal deliberations about its election coverage as it sought to ward off competition from right-wing outlets that embraced Trump’s false narrative.

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