Rupert Murdoch to testify in Dominion voting machine defamation case

Billionaire media mogul, 91, will sit for deposition next week about claims Fox News deliberately spread falsehoods over 2020 election

A defamation lawsuit claiming Fox News purposely promoted false claims that a voting tech company rigged the 2020 election is set to reach the apex of the media empire next week when the channel’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, is scheduled to sit for a deposition.

Lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems, which is suing Fox for $1.6bn, are seeking to learn what knowledge the 91-year-old billionaire might have of his company’s repeated broadcasts of the untruthful allegations.

Segments of shows hosted by the prominent rightwing Fox personalities Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, among others, all featured a post-election narrative that Dominion’s voting machines were somehow crooked, including switching ballots from Donald Trump to Joe Biden in the former’s defeat to the latter in the race for the Oval Office, Dominion says.

The lawsuit alleges the unsubstantiated claims were amplified by conspiracy theorist guests such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, both lawyers for Trump who have either been sanctioned, or are facing disciplinary measures, for pushing in court the former president’s big lie of a stolen election.

Murdoch, who will sit for depositions via video link on 13 and 14 December, is the most significant name yet to have received a subpoena. On Monday, his son Lachlan Murdoch – the chief executive of the channel’s parent company Fox Corp – gave testimony while others called in last month include the Fox News CEO, Suzanne Scott, and president, Jay Wallace.

Hannity gave a seven-hour deposition in August, the Washington Post reported. According to the newspaper, he was asked specifically about a November 2020 episode of his show in which Powell claimed Dominion “ran an algorithm that shaved off votes from Trump and awarded them to Biden” and added additional huge quantities of “fake” Biden votes.

The lawsuit, which was filed in June 2021 against Fox News, was expanded to include Fox Corp in June. It claims Fox “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process”.

Fox Corp attempted to have the suit dismissed, but a Delaware judge said Dominion, which provided voting machines to 28 states in the 2020 election, had shown adequate evidence for it to proceed.

Dominion was already suing other rightwing networks OAN and Newsmax for airing similar claims about the integrity of its machines.

Fox has rejected the claims, painting the case as a battle for a free press and its right to broadcast newsworthy allegations of an election fraud pressed by a prominent public official, namely Trump.

In a statement in August, Fox News said: “We are confident we will prevail as freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be protected, in addition to the damages claims being outrageous, unsupported and not rooted in sound financial analysis.”

Fox News objects to what it sees as an attempt by Dominion to expose its internal processes, and it has sought to protect Hannity and fellow host Jeanine Pirro from having to reveal “confidential sources and information”.

Although Hannity has stated publicly that he is not a journalist, Fox appears intent on describing him as one, insisting it is “a journalist’s right to maintain his confidences”.

A five-week trial is set to begin in Delaware’s superior court in April unless a settlement is reached before then. The Post reports that the two sides are so far apart that such a deal is not seen as imminent.


Richard Luscombe

The GuardianTramp

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