In the legendary defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, Fox News now faces a skeptical judge who will have a hand in determining whether the case should proceed to trial.
In 2021, Dominion sued Fox Corp and Fox News, accusing them of ruining its reputation by airing false claims by former President Donald Trump and his lawyers. Fox has argued that its coverage of these claims was protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of press freedom. The case is one of the most closely watched defamation cases involving a major U.S. media organization in years, pitting the influential cable news network that features conservative commentators against a company that claims Fox's coverage destroyed its business.
Lawyers for Dominion argued that Fox News knowingly aired false claims of vote-rigging in the 2020 U.S. election, which meets the "actual malice" standard to win a defamation case. Fox News argued that its coverage of these claims was newsworthy while invoking the legal doctrine of "neutral reportage."
During the hearing, the judge questioned Fox's defense against Dominion's assertion that the network knew voting-rigging allegations were false but continued to air them in pursuit of ratings. The judge also noted the tension between Fox's arguments on "actual malice" and "neutral reportage." Fox's lawyers argued that reasonable viewers understood that the claims aired on Fox News were mere allegations and that these "newsworthy" claims were appropriately covered. However, the judge questioned whether the claims were facts, opinions, or a mix of both.
The hearing is expected to continue, and the judge will issue a written opinion at a later date. Meanwhile, a Fox News producer has filed a lawsuit accusing the network's lawyers of pressuring her to provide misleading testimony in the Dominion case. Fox has called the allegations baseless and said it would vigorously defend itself against all claims.