Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation, acknowledged in a deposition taken by Dominion Voting Systems that some Fox News hosts endorsed false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Murdoch’s remarks were made public in a legal filing as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News.
In his deposition, Murdoch rejected that the right-wing talk network as an entity endorsed former President Donald Trump’s election lies. But Murdoch conceded that Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and former host Lou Dobbs promoted the falsehood about the presidential contest being stolen.
“Some of our commentators were endorsing it,,” Murdoch said, according to the filing, when asked about the talk hosts’ on-air positions about the election. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight,” he added.
The filing also revealed that Murdoch referred to some of Trump’s 2020 election lies as “bulls**t and damaging.”
Fox calls Dominion lawsuit ‘dubious’
In a Monday statement, Fox News assailed Dominion.
“Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny,” the network said, “as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims.”
“Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear Fox for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment,” the network added.
Fox on Monday defended the actions of executives and hosts during the 2020 election in its own legal filings countering Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit. Fox alleged that its hosts’ on-air assertions about election fraud were taken out of context.
Fox says it should not be held liable for the hosts’ claims.
“Dominion’s summary judgment motion is flawed from top to bottom and should be rejected in its entirety,” lawyers for Fox News wrote in its filing Monday.
Fox Corporation said in its filing that Dominion “has produced zero evidentiary support for its dubious theory that high-level executives at Fox Corporation ‘chose to publish and broadcast’ or played a ‘direct role in the creation and publication’ of false election lies.”
Fox hosts ridicule election fraud claims
In another filing made public earlier this month, a trove of messages and emails from the most prominent stars and highest-ranking executives at Fox News showed they had privately ridiculed claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, despite the right-wing channel promoting lies about the presidential contest on its air.
The messages showed that Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham brutally mocked lies being pushed by former President Donald Trump’s camp asserting that the election was rigged.
The court filings have offered the most vivid picture to date of the chaos that transpired behind the scenes at Fox News after Trump lost the election and viewers rebelled against the right-wing channel for accurately calling the contest in Biden’s favor.
Top legal experts told CNN after last week’s filing that Dominion’s legal position appeared strong.
“It’s a major blow,” renowned First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams said of Dominion’s motion for a summary judgment, adding that the “recent revelations certainly put Fox in a more precarious situation” in defending against the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds.
Rebecca Tushnet, the Frank Stanton Professor of First Amendment Law at Harvard Law School, described Dominion’s evidence as a “very strong” filing that “clearly lays out the difference between what Fox was saying publicly and what top people at Fox were privately admitting.”
Tushnet said that in her years of practicing and teaching law, she had never seen such damning evidence collected in the pre-trial phase of a defamation suit.
“I don’t recall anything comparable to this,” Tushnet said. “Donald Trump seems to be very good at generating unprecedented situations.”
Murdoch said it was ‘wrong’ for Tucker Carlson to host election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell
In his deposition, Murdoch also said that it was “wrong” for Fox’s Tucker Carlson to have hosted election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell on his program following the presidential election.
Murdoch testified it was “wrong for Tucker to host Mike Lindell to repeat those allegations against Dominion on January 26th, 2021,” the documents said.
When asked why Fox News didn’t sever ties with Lindell, Murdoch indicated that it was a financial decision.
“It is not red or blue, it is green?”, a Dominion lawyer asked, according to the court documents and a person familiar with the matter. Murdoch agreed.
“The man is on every night. Pays us a lot of money…” Murdoch said. “At first you think it’s comic, and then you get bored and irritated.”
Murdoch also said he could have stopped Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, former lawyers for President Trump and his campaign who alleged election fraud, from appearing on the network’s programs, the filing said.
“I could have. But I didn’t,” Murdoch said.
Paul Ryan warned Murdochs, Fox to stop spreading false election narratives
Court documents Monday showed that Paul Ryan repeatedly warned Murdoch and Fox News of the dangerous effects that discussing false election fraud narratives on air would have with viewers.
Ryan, the former House speaker and a Fox Corporation board member, repeatedly told Rupert and Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch that the company “should not be spreading conspiracy theories.”
On at least one occasion, Ryan advised the Murdochs that the company should “move on from Donald Trump and stop spouting election lies.”
During this time, Ryan told the Murdochs that many of those who thought the election had been stolen did so “because they got a diet of information telling them the election was stolen from what they believe were credible sources.”
“The sooner we can put down the echoes of falsehoods from our side, the faster we can get onto principled loyal opposition,” Ryan wrote to Rupert. “I truly hope our contributors, along with Tucker, Laura, and Sean get that and execute.”
Rupert responded to Ryan, noting that “everything changed” following the events of January 6, 2021, and asked the former speaker turned Fox executive for suggestions for contributors.
Murdoch gave Kushner ‘confidential information’ about Biden ads
Also revealed in Dominion’s filing, Rupert Murdoch gave Jared Kushner, son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, “confidential information about [President Joe] Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy” in 2020, “providing Kushner a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public,” the court filing states.
Murdoch, under oath, also said that on election night, Kushner called him upset about the media’s coverage of the election that was ultimately called for Biden. Murdoch testified that Kushner said, “this is terrible” and Murdoch could “hear Trump’s voice in the background shouting.” Murdoch said he replied, “Well, the numbers are the numbers.”
According to the filing, Murdoch said that he believed no fraud had occurred in the election.
“Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up. I think that was shown when we announced Arizona,” Murdoch said, referring to Fox News’ projection on election night that Joe Biden would win the critical battleground state.
A Kushner spokesperson did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
- CNN’s Liam Reilly and Nicki Brown contributed to this report
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Murdoch said during his deposition that a key coverage decision was made, not because of "red or blue," but because of "green." This story has been updated to reflect that the comments attributed Murdoch were made by Dominion's lawyer, according to a person familiar with the matter. Murdoch agreed with the statement during the deposition, according to the court filing and person familiar with the matter, but did not make the comment himself.