Fox News is embroiled in a dispute it claims is about freedom of the press. However, it may turn out to be more about money than news reporting in a democracy.
Last year, Dominion Voting Systems filed suit against Fox and individuals including Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, advisers to President Trump.
The defendants, Dominion said, had defamed and damaged its business to the tune of $1.6 billion by broadcasting the lie that its voting machines altered votes in the 2020 election.
Last week, the court unsealed records that showed that Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham doubted the claims about Dominion. They showed that Fox chief Rupert Murdoch recognized the legitimacy of the election of Joe Biden as president.
Nonetheless, the network continued to broadcast claims that the presidential election had been stolen.
Defamation requires that what was said was false or easily found to be false, was broadcast or published with malice and resulted in damage.
The First Amendment that guarantees freedom of the press protects news organizations from many claims for defamation or libel, but not all. Untrue claims published with malice—extreme ill will—can collapse that legal protection.
Reporters and commentators don’t always get it right. The good ones, however, try hard to do so.
Unsealed text threads and emails in this case indicate that the Fox figures didn’t try. They privately mocked theories flogged by Giuliani and Powell and aired them anyway.
Fox viewers had become hooked on conspiracies, anger and rage, and the records show that some at Fox worried about stopping the fuel that fed them.
Fox was the first to call the Arizona race for Biden, and its reporters found no evidence of election fraud. Then its ratings fell as viewers found more adrenaline on cable channels Newsmax and OAN. Fox’s stock price fell, too.
The talking heads apparently knew they were peddling a lie, a violation of every tenet of responsible journalism. However, the record portrays them as caring more about ratings and Fox’s stock price.
News organizations are businesses, but profits should not be the prime motivator when deciding what to report and whom to showcase.
The courts will decide what, if any, damage to Dominion Voting Systems business Fox News did.
Audiences will have to decide what, if any, damage is done when money rather than truth drives the news.
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That's a noble thought, sort of. Why doesn't IME stand again the pollution form excess development?
Welcome to the discussion.