Paying $787.7 million won’t stop Fox, America’s powerful fascist news network
This artist sketch depicts Dominion Voting Systems attorney Justin Nelson, standing left, and Fox News attorney Daniel Webb, standing at right, speaking to Judge Eric Davis before finishing jury selection in Delaware Superior Court Tuesday, April 18, 2023, in Wilmington, Del. | Elizabeth Williams via AP

WILMINGTON, Del.—Fox News’s huge payment to Dominion Voting Systems to settle Dominion’s libel suit over Fox’s deliberate lies about the firm’s voting machines in the 2020 election is an admission of guilt by Fox and “a ringing endorsement for truth and democracy,” attorneys for Dominion say.

The reality, however, is that the amount Fox has to shell out is far less than half the money it takes in during just one quarter of its yearly operations. To most corporate giants that percentage of earnings is nothing more than what they expect to shell out simply as the regular cost of doing business.

As a result of the settlement, the viewers of the giant “news” network will never get to see the admission by Fox that it was guilty of pushing on the public the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from the Dear Leader, Donald Trump. Fox aired, on Tuesday afternoon, when most of its viewers were at their jobs or shopping for what they need at home, a several second statement that “some of the statements about Dominion voting machines were not accurate but that Fox remains committed to providing the highest standards” of journalism.

That was the extent of their admission agreed to in court. The many millions who get their news from Fox will never see anything else about the case. The settlement also guaranteed that people like Rupert Murdoch, the leader of Fox and that people like Tucker Carlson and other Fox hosts will never be seen admitting to millions that they lied to their admiring public.

All in all, Fox got off pretty easy and what has become the nation’s national fascist broadcasting network will continue spewing what it calls “news,” building support for the Republicans, a party determined to destroy democracy in America. Even if the network continues to pull away from Trump and toward possible alternatives like Florida’s Republican Gov. DeSantis, the Fox commitment to fascism will continue, if not actually grow.

Largest amount ever

The decision by Fox to settle for what is the largest amount ever in a libel suit in American history is, however, a victory for those who wanted proof that Fox lied about the election. “Lies have consequences. The truth does not know red or blue,” Dominion lead attorney Justin Nelson said after the news broke before the libel trial began on April 18.

Dominion had uncovered conclusive evidence Fox “knowingly and recklessly lied” about the election, analysts said even before the settlement. That’s the legal standard private people or companies who sue must meet to prove libel by a media firm.

But if Dominion’s settlement is a win for truth, it is only temporary.

In that statement, Fox didn’t apologize for its deliberate libels. It didn’t produce an outright mea culpa about its willful repetition and enhancement of former Oval Office occupant Trump’s lies about “stop the steal” and “a stolen election.” Fox certainly didn’t admit the overwhelming weight of evidence that Trump lost. That’s even though the Trumpite Fox sycophants, behind closed doors, agreed he did.

In short, Fox paid the cash as the cost of doing its business, and can go on lying.

Which means the ultimate fate of both Fox and democracy will be up to the masses of voters who must band together in a grand coalition to bury Fox, Trump, his acolytes, “stop the steal,” conspiracy theories, vote fraud claims and the flood of assorted and often dangerous right-wing rubbish once and for all.

That coalition will have to band together long before next year’s election, and preferably now. While running again for the White House, Trump still lies about 2020 and he remains a threat to democracy. And media counts of Fox’s coverage indicate it’s still parroting his trash, racism, xenophobia and lies.

Notorious Fox hosts, led by Tucker Carlson, perpetrated Trump’s big lies. All knew the truth—and in emails and memos produced before the trial, admitted it. So did Fox founder, chairman emeritus and ruling force, capitalist tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

They may not escape the consequences. Another Dominion attorney, Stephen Shackelford, said the firm will pursue other repeaters and embellishers of Trump’s lies besides Fox. He did not say who. “We are not done yet,” he told MSNBC.

But Shackelford, who had been preparing his opening statement for the trial, said “an apology is about accountability” and maintained the money was an apology.

Fox didn’t view it that way. Its weasel written statement from its Manhattan headquarters read in part:

“We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false…This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”

The rest of the media doubt that commitment, and reading it on the air caused CNN news host Jake Tapper to crack up laughing. And Fox piously proclaimed its hope the settlement “allows the country to move forward from these issues,” not acknowledging what the issues are or the damage its lies did.

That wasn’t the end of Fox’s denial of the truth. Websites of two key Fox outlets, Fox News itself and of the New York Post, didn’t post anything. And while Dominion attorneys patiently answered questions about the settlement and called it a vindication and truth, Fox’s attorneys scuttled away, refusing to talk to the reporters who pursued them.

Allows Fox to go on lying

The whole scenario lets Fox go right on lying, even if it loses yet another libel case to another voting machine manufacturer, Smartmatic, whose machines Fox also charged were rigged in 2020. Dominion sued Fox for $1.6 billion; Smartmatic’s asking $2.7 billion. In its most recent quarterly report, Fox reported it had $4 billion in cash on hand, not counting its billions in assets.

One analyst, Angelo Carusone of Media Matters America, the watchdog group that calls out right-wing lies, says only two forces could stop Fox from following the continuing liar’s path, as it did even while pre-trial discovery uncovered its libels and their motives: Viewership and corporate greed.

One force is if shareholders outside the ruling Murdoch family rebel, saying “You’re taking money out of our pockets” by losing libel cases over the election. The other is if cable viewers rebel against local systems including Fox in their packages—and the local systems in turn refuse to pay Fox’s high fees.

“The stain this leaves on Fox can’t be wiped out with money,” Carusone said. “The network has been completely exposed as a partisan propaganda outlet willing to do anything for profit and power. Fox News lied about the 2020 election. They all knew it was a lie, right up to the Murdochs themselves,” Carusone said of Fox’s ruling family.

“What the Dominion trial offered was a keyhole view into the day-to-day industrial-scale deceit that takes place at Fox. It helped illustrate why the company is such a uniquely destructive force” aimed at democracy.

But in an indication of Fox’s continuing clout and of its devotees’ continued worship, Carusone in an interview with MSNBC admitted Fox’s cable clicks rose after the settlement. Its hard-right Trumpite devotees flocked to Fox after it put its own spin on the deal. That increase will let Fox raise rates it charges to cable carriers to carry its “news” and incendiary and lying pundits.

The actual trial was set to start at 1:30 pm in state court in Wilmington, Del. Just after entering the courtroom, Fox’s attorneys, Judge Eric Davis and Dominion’s attorneys huddled behind closed doors before Judge Davis emerged at 4 p.m. to preempt opening arguments in the case by announcing the deal.

Had the trial commenced, testimony and evidence would have been laid before the entire country—including the Fox audience—about how Fox deliberately lied in pushing Trump’s lies of vote fraud, “stop the steal,” and rigged Dominion voting machines.

In reality, the evidence shows Trump was trying to steal electoral votes and the presidency. The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Trumpite invasion, insurrection and attempted coup d’etat at the U.S. Capitol proved that, through witnesses and video.

That Trump steal was particularly obvious in Georgia, but he also tried in Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and Pennsylvania, all swing states. And not only did Trump’s aides and most of his staffers know it, so did Carlson and the other Fox TV personalities masquerading as “fair and balanced” news people.

On election night and afterwards, Fox reporters who told the truth on the air were sidelined. The Fox elections analyst who called Arizona for Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Election Night was fired. Fox’s Arizona call for Biden, which was correct, enraged Trump. It was the first indication to him and his inside-the-campaign troops that he could lose the Oval Office. Fox ratings dropped.

Pre-trial news reports indicated Fox’s attorneys in the Delaware court intended to wrap the firm in a First Amendment freedom-of-the-press anti-libel defense, claiming they were just reporting the news made by a newsmaker—Trump—even if that newsmaker lied. Had they succeeded, Dominion would have failed. But in pre-trial rulings, Judge Davis restricted, if not denied, that defense.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.