Fox Corporation’s announcement of its settlement with Dominion Voting Systems is grossly inadequate. Note what they said in the announcement: “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.” But most importantly, note what they didn’t say. They didn’t apologize. They didn’t even say “we agree with the Court’s rulings.” Nor did they admit any fault whatsoever.
It is not that unusual for news organizations to make false statements either through mistake or lack of information. Reputable news organizations publish corrections when they make false statements. Those corrections specifically state what they got wrong and present more accurate information. They set the record straight. But this statement by Fox doesn’t even state WHAT they said that was false, (much less admit that their guests were lying to their audience.)
Someone who lived in a Fox bubble would have no idea how significant those false statements were. For all they knew, Fox could have said, “Dominion was used by 23 states in 2020”, whereas they were really used by 24. A Fox Bubbleboy would not know that the false statements made up the heart of Trump’s Big Lie. He would not know that the false statements were a driving factor behind the rampage on January 6. And notice that Fox did not state that they agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million. That key fact would have told Fox Bubbleboy that this was an important story and that the false statements about Dominion were serious and needed further explanation. And that’s a problem.
So we intend to hold people accountable because, as we have said, the truth really does matter and if you are lying, that has consequences. It had a consequence for Dominion in the ... grievous blow to the reputation that it had over the past couple of years and the threats the death threats that the company really continues to receive, and it had a consequence for Fox. Today they paid nearly three quarters of a billion dollars. (Emphasis added)
Note that he said that Dominion is still getting death threats from frothing-at-the-mouth vicious Trumpanzees. OK, so ”frothing-at-the-mouth vicious Trumpanzees” is my phrasing, not Justin’s. (See "What Is A Trumpanzee?" for more information about this volatile species.)
My main point is that while this settlement is great for Dominion’s wallets, it does little to help democracy because many of Fox’s viewers either won’t hear about it, or they will dismiss it as a nothingburger because they WANT to believe Trump’s lie. And Dominion’s officers and employees will continue to get death threats as long as Trump’s Big Lie thrives among a substantial portion of the population. But I have a plan to pierce the Fox bubble.
Dominion Voting Systems should use some of that $787.5 million they won to buy time on Fox to air the opening statement their lawyer would have made had this gone to trial. Or if Dominion doesn't want to buy ad time for one opening statement, they could buy lots of ads on Fox and use them to quote from depositions from Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Rupert Murdoch, and others. Let's say they go on a $15 million ad campaign to make sure that Fox viewers learned the truth about the lies that were spread on Fox. I don't know how much it costs to advertise on Fox News, but we can make some rough calculations. It cost $13,779 in 2017 to buy a 30-second ad on Tucker Carlson's show, and Carlson had the most expensive show to advertise on. Let's suppose the rate has gone up to $20,000 for 30 seconds. And suppose Dominion made Fox a generous offer of 2 1/2 times the going rate--i.e. $50,000 for a 30-second ad on Carlson's show. A $15 million ad purchase would buy 300 ads on Fox's most expensive show. It would buy more ads if some were aired on shows with lower advertising rates. I will list a few of the things I would like to see in Dominion's ads at the end of this piece.
Dominion said that it wanted to clear its name. Buying ads on Fox gives Dominion a chance to do so before the viewers who are most likely to pose a threat to them. Of course, Fox is almost certain to reject Dominion’s proposed ad campaign. They want their viewers knowing that Fox lied to them as much as the Wicked Witch of the West wants to take a bath. Fox WILL turn down Dominion’s offer. But there are a few ways for Dominion to turn the screws on Fox if they do. The first way involves a shareholder lawsuit by Robert Schwartz.
Before I proceed, I must state that I am not a lawyer. None of what follows should be considered legal advice. Consult a real lawyer before acting on anything I say. And kids—don’t try this at home.
Robert Schwartz is a Fox Corp. shareholder who is suing Fox Corp. and Rupert Murdoch for violating their fiduciary responsibility by allowing their platform to be used to spread lies. (There is at least one other shareholder lawsuit that was filed under seal against Fox and other shareholder lawsuits may be on the way.) Schwartz COULD argue that Dominion’s offer and Fox’s refusal of $15 million strengthens his case that Fox is not carrying out its fiduciary responsibility. Dominion’s offer COULD give Schwartz and other shareholders more ammunition to pursue their lawsuits against Fox. But maybe he won’t do this since airing the truth that Fox allowed became Lie Central might hurt the company by causing a mass exodus by Fox’s audience. In other words, an argument can be made that Fox would be violating its fiduciary responsibility if it now broadcasted the truth.
But even if shareholders don’t want to use Fox’s rejection of Dominion’s offer in their lawsuit, others may want to use it in new lawsuits that they will file against Fox. Seven Capitol Police officers are suing Donald Trump, members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, and others for violating their rights on January 6. They, or other police officers, may want to sue Fox for negligence. I would not be surprised if some of them are still getting harassed or getting death threats from Trumpanzees who still believe Trump’s Big Lie. Fox's rejection of Dominion’s offer would prove that Fox would rather turn down $15 million than broadcast the truth that could reduce the threats they face.
Similarly, Congressman Eric Swalwell is suing Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. Mo Brooks, and Rudy Giuliani for their role in events leading up to and including January 6. I am sure he still gets threats from Trumpanzees hopped up on the Big Lie. Eleven other members of Congress are also suing Trump, Giuliani, and others in a separate action for jeopardizing their safety on January 6. If any of them are being threatened by Trumpanzees then they too could sue Fox. Those in Congress who sue Fox should not ask for monetary damages. Their goal should be to get a judge to order Fox to accept Dominion’s offer and air their commercials.
Nancy Pelosi would make an interesting addition as a plaintiff to this lawsuit. A crazed QAnon cultist named David DePape broke into her house intending to torture her for the wrongs that he imagined that she had committed. She wasn't there, so he smashed in the skull of her husband, David, instead. It would be a mistake for Pelosi to overplay her hand if she joined the lawsuit. It is far from certain that DePape got most of his ideas from Fox News. And he believed in a witch's brew of conspiracy theories and not just Trump's Big Lie. It might not have been Trump's Big Lie that pushed him over the edge. Still, if she added her name to that of other members of Congress suing Fox, lawyers for Team Congress could use her as an example to remind the jury of where unchecked conpiracy theories like the one Fox helped flourished could lead.
Fox helped spread the lies that fanned the flames of vitriol leading to January 6. It would be beyond negligence for Fox to refuse to lower the heat—especially when it could make $15 million by doing so. Dominion has nothing to lose by PUBLICLY making this offer to Fox. If Fox accepts their offer—great. That will probably reduce the death threats that Dominion’s officers and employees receive. If Fox rejects the offer, then Dominion can sit back and let others use the opportunity that their offer has created to sue Fox into accepting their offer.
What Dominion Should Include In Their Ads
Here are just a few of the quotes Dominion should use in their ads. I'm sure the good folks at Dominion can identify other passages to weave into their ads that I am missing. All of these quotes are taken from Dominion's Motion for Summary Judgment.
For whatever show takes the time slot of Tucker Carlson's show (p. 19)
What [Trump]’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.
For whatever show takes the time slot of Tucker Carlson's show. (p.43-44)
After January 6, trying to thread the needle between the truth and pressure from his viewers and sponsors became even more difficult. Late on January 6, Carlson texted with Pfeiffer that Trump is “a demonic force, a destroyer. But he’s not going to destroy us." On January 26, Carlson invited his leading sponsor Mike Lindell on his show, where Lindell spouted these same conspiracies on air after previewing them for Carlson’s staff during a pre- interview.
Privately, Fox’s hosts and executives knew that Donald Trump lost the election and that he needed to concede. But Fox viewers heard a different story— repeatedly. On January 5, Rupert Murdoch told [Fox News CEO] Suzanne Scott, “It’s been suggested our prime time three should independently or together say something like ‘the election is over and Joe Biden won,’” and that such a statement “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen.” Scott forwarded the email to Cooper, stating “I told Rupert that privately they are all there—we need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers but they know how to navigate.” Despite the internal recognition that the election was over, Fox did not retract its claims about Dominion. Instead, it kept defaming Dominion.
For whatever show takes the time slot of Calrson's show and for Sean Hannity's show. (p.31)
Meanwhile, later that night of November 12, Ingraham was still texting with Hannity and Carlson. In their group text thread, Carlson pointed Hannity to a tweet by Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich. Heinrich was “fact checking” a tweet by Trump that mentioned Dominion—and specifically mentioned Hannity’s and Dobbs’ broadcasts that evening discussing Dominion. Heinrich correctly fact-checked the tweet, pointing out that “top election infrastructure officials” said that “‘There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.’”
Carlson told Hannity: “Please get her fired. Seriously….What the fuck? I’m actually shocked…It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”
For whatever show takes the time slot of Tucker Carlson's show and for Laura Ingraham's show (page 34 - 35)
Carlson told his producer Alex Pfeiffer that night: “Sidney Powell is lying. Fucking bitch.”
By November 18, Carlson told Ingraham “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane.” Ex.241. Ingraham responded: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.” Id. Carlson replied: “It’s unbelievably offensive to me. Our viewers are good people and they believe it.”
For Sean Hannity's Show (p.40)
As [Fox News CEO] Suzanne Scott said, “Privately, I had a number of conversations with Sean where he wanted the President to accept the results,” and Hannity had understood that Joe Biden legitimately won the election “for some time.”
For Sean Hannity's Show (p.142)
Here is what Sean Hannity said behind closed doors about Sidney Powell's claim that Dominion's machines were used to steal the election from Trump:
I did not believe it for one second.
For All Shows (page 58)
11/16/2020: 59 election security and computer science experts, including Fox’s expert in this case Dan Wallach, jointly announced: “We are aware of alarming assertions being made that the 2020 election was ‘rigged’ by exploiting technical vulnerabilities. However, in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent. To our collective knowledge, no credible evidence has been put forth that supports a conclusion that the 2020 election outcome in any state has been altered through technical compromise.”