Democratic leaders in Congress sent a letter to Fox News executives including Rupert Murdoch Wednesday demanding they force Fox News hosts to stop spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election and apologize for claims they’ve already made, after new court filings in a high-stakes defamation case suggested the network’s anchors pushed fraud claims on-air despite knowing they were false.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Fox executives after excerpts from Murdoch’s deposition in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case were released Monday, showing the Fox Corp. chair acknowledged anchors spread false election claims on his network, which Murdoch did not believe but also did not try to stop.
Citing the “dangerous precedent” the network’s reporting of the fraud allegations sets, the lawmakers asked Fox execs to direct Tucker Carlson and other hosts to “stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior.”
The lawmakers said it was particularly important to debunk the claims now after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave Carlson access to extensive security camera footage of the January 6 attack, and because promoting the fraud claims could “embolden” people to commit “further acts of political violence” and “weakens faith in our democracy.”
Recently unsealed court filings in the Dominion lawsuit, which was filed after the far right tied the company’s voting machines to election fraud, include dozens of examples of Fox anchors and high-level officials privately acknowledging they did not believe the fraud claims, even as the network pushed them on air.
In addition to Murdoch, the letter was also sent to his son and Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and Fox News President Jay Wallace.
Fox News has not yet responded to a request for comment, but the company has broadly denied the defamation allegations against them and argued election fraud comments made on the network are protected under the First Amendment.
“Fox News executives and all other hosts on your network have a clear choice,” Schumer and Jeffries wrote. “You can continue a pattern of lying to your viewers and risking democracy or move beyond this damaging chapter in your company’s history by siding with the truth and reporting the facts.”
Fox News has challenged Dominion’s recent court filing alleging its employees promoted claims despite knowing they were false. The network alleged in a response to the court that Dominion was “mischaracterizing the record and cherry-picking quotes that it strips of key context,” such as by focusing on statements from Fox officials that aren’t connected to the allegedly defamatory statements Dominion takes issue with, or ignoring evidence showing “Fox News hosts repeatedly testified that they did not know in the immediate aftermath of the election whether the President’s unprecedented allegations about Dominion were false.”
What To Watch For
Dominion’s defamation case against Fox News is scheduled to go to trial starting April 17, assuming the judge does not grant the parties’ request to issue a ruling in the case before then. Dominion is asking for $1.6 billion in damages, and the case is one of two that Fox News is facing, along with a separate defamation lawsuit from rival voting machine company Smartmatic.
Former President Donald Trump attacked Murdoch on Truth Social early Wednesday in light of his deposition comments saying he didn’t believe Trump’s election fraud claims. “If Rupert Murdoch honestly believes that the Presidential Election of 2020 … was not Rigged & Stollen, then he & his group of MAGA Hating Globalist RINOS should get out of the News Business as soon as possible,” Trump wrote, praising the “BRAVE & PATRIOTIC” Fox hosts who pushed fraud claims.
Dominion sued Fox News in March 2021 alleging the network knowingly spread false claims about its voting machines in the aftermath of the 2020 election, one of a dozen lawsuits that Dominion and Smartmatic have brought against right-wing individuals and networks who promoted the fraud allegations. The case has garnered widespread attention ahead of trial, particularly in light of the unsealed Dominion filing, which alleges Fox knowingly pushed the fraud claims in order to boost its ratings and stop viewers from jumping ship and getting their news from further-right Newsmax instead. The filing includes such comments as Carlson calling fraud claims “insane” and “absurd” and that it was “shockingly reckless” to push them; anchor Sean Hannity testifying he did not believe the fraud claims “for one second,” Fox host Laura Ingraham calling far-right attorney Sidney Powell a “complete nut” and alleging the Dominion fraud claims were based on an email from a woman who also claimed, “The wind tells me I’m a ghost, but I don’t believe it.” Murdoch testified in the case Fox hosts were “endorsing” the fraud claims even as he didn’t believe Fox itself was as a company, but he had the power to keep election deniers like Powell off the network and chose not to. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” Murdoch testified.