Fox News reached a last-second settlement with Dominion Voting Systems on Tuesday as the case progressed toward editorial statements, paying more than $787 million to end a massive two-year legal battle that publicly shredded the right-wing network’s credibility.
Fox News’ $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems is the largest publicly known defamation settlement in US history involving a media company.
The deal was announced hours after the jury was sworn in in the Delaware Supreme Court. Rumors of a settlement swirled in the courtroom when the proceedings came to a dramatic halt after the lunch break for nearly three hours without explanation, while the two parties apparently reached an agreement.
“Both sides have made their case,” Judge Eric Davis said, before dismissing the 12-member jury, crediting them with giving the parties a push to settle, undue praise for the lawyers on both sides, and emphasizing the so-called “trial of the century.” media before you start.
Dominion attorney Justin Nelson said the groundbreaking settlement “represents vindication and accountability.” “For our democracy to last for another 250 years, and hopefully for much longer, we must share a commitment to facts… Today marks a strong endorsement of truth and of democracy.”
The right-wing network said in a statement that it “recognises[s] court rulings that found certain allegations about Dominion to be false,” referring to the recent ruling by Davis that 20 Fox News broadcasts from late 2020 contained grossly incorrect assertions that Dominion rigged the presidential election. A Dominion representative told CNN N-Fox will not have to admit on air that it is spreading lies about Dominion.
The $787.5 million in damages is half the $1.6 billion Dominion initially sought, though it’s about 10 times the company’s valuation from 2018, and about eight times its annual revenue in 2021, according to court filings.
A last minute agreement means that the closely watched case is over and no trial will proceed. By settling with Dominion, influential Fox News executives and prominent on-air personalities will be exempt from testifying about their coverage of the 2020 election, which was riddled with lies about voter fraud.
The list of witnesses included Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch, his executive son Lachlan Murdoch, and notable Fox hosts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. Emails, transcripts, and testimonials made public during the case revealed that these numbers, and several other Fox figures, privately stated in 2020 that the vote-rigging allegations against Dominion were untrue. But the lies spread on the air anyway.
Rupert Murdoch thought it was “really insane” to deny the election, even as Fox personalities promoted those claims to millions of viewers. Carlson said he “passionately” hates Donald Trump, whose presidency has been a “disaster”. Fox hosts, producers, fact-checkers, and CEOs privately said the on-air allegations of a stolen election were “bizarre,” “dangerously reckless,” and “mind-inducing.”
The revelations generated months of buzzing headlines for Fox as the case moved toward trial. By settling now, Fox denied Dominion an opportunity to further expose his dishonesty with a weeks-long trial.
“This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest standards of journalism,” Fox said in a statement on Tuesday. It is our hope that our decision to resolve this dispute with the Dominion amicably, rather than in the acrimony of a divisive trial, will allow the country to move forward from these issues.”
Fox News and Fox Corporation — its parent company, which was also a defendant — maintain that they never defamed Dominion, and say the case was a baseless assault on First Amendment freedom of the press.
Speculation of a settlement has come to a head in recent days, especially after the court announced on Sunday that the start of the trial, which was scheduled to start on Monday, would be postponed by one day.
The jury selection process concluded as planned Tuesday morning, and both sides prepared to make opening statements. They even briefly chatted about objections to certain slides in their presentations. But when the proceedings did not immediately resume after lunch, the chances of a deal seemed to increase by the minute, even though the top lawyers on both sides sat in the courtroom, looking at their phones, and waiting.
The racially diverse jury of six men and six women has been returned to court, ready for their front row seat in a landmark trial. But Davis, the judge, told the committee that they helped catalyze a settlement.
“Your being here, short compared to what you thought, and quiet in a sense, was very important,” Davis said. “Without you, the parties would not have been able to resolve their situation.”
Many on the Dominion side described the compromise as a victory for democracy and for truth itself.
“Fox has admitted its lies about Dominion that have caused serious harm to my company, our employees and the customers we serve,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said Tuesday out of court.
While the Dominion case is now over, Fox News still faces a second major defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting technology company that was similarly defamed on Fox News programming after the 2020 election. This case is still in the process of discovery, and no trial is expected anytime soon. .
For its part, Dominion still has lawsuits pending against right-wing television networks Newsmax and OAN, as well as Trump allies Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell. They all deny any wrongdoing.
CNN’s Liam Riley and Danny Freeman contributed to this story.