Fox and Dominion Voting Machines have settled the defamation lawsuit brought against the news network for $US787.5 (AU$1.1 billion).
The pair reached an agreement after the jury was sworn in on Tuesday morning and after a lengthy delay to the start of the opening statements. Neither party immediately disclosed the terms of the settlement beyond the dollar amount.
Dominion’s lawyers declined to answer say whether it requires Fox to issue a retraction or formal apology. How Fox covers the news itself, will be interesting to see.
“The parties have resolved their case,” Davis told jurors, before excusing them from the court.
Dominion attorney Justin Nelson told a press conference outside the court that the settlement represented “vindication and accountability” despite the settlement representing less than half of the US$1.6 billion (AU$2.3 billion) it had previously demanded it in its lawsuit.
“Truth matters. Lies have consequences. The truth does not know red or blue,” Nelson added.
“People across the political spectrum can and should disagree on issues, even of the most profound importance. But for our democracy to endure another 250 years and hopefully much longer, we must share a commitment to facts.”
Fox said in a statement that the settlement demonstrated its “continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards” and that by settling “amicably” with Dominion, rather than going through the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
The six-week jury trial had been due to begin on Monday but Judge Davis postponed to allow the sides time to settle.
Dominion sued Fox News for repeated claims made on the network that it switched votes, paid government kickbacks and had been founded in Venezuela to fix elections for Hugo Chávez. In the process of submitting evidence, Dominion had unearthed evidence from Fox that showed that executives at the highest level of the company, including Rupert Murdoch, were aware of the claims and did nothing to dissuade presenters from making them.
The evidence even showed that the executives and the presenters themselves did not believe the claims that the network was making.
Murdoch and leading Fox hosts including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo were all set to testify in the case.
“Throughout this process, we have sought accountability,” said Dominion CEO John Poulos.
“We believe the evidence brought to light through this case underscores the consequences of spreading lies. Truthful reporting in the media is essential to our democracy.”
Before the trial had even started, Judge Davis concluded that Fox’s claims about Dominion were false. The jury would have been faced with the question of whether Fox committed “actual malice” in making the claims on-air.
“Money is accountability,” added Dominion attorney Stephen Shackleford, who had been set to give opening arguments.
“We got that today from Fox. But we’re not done yet. We’ve got some other people who have some accountability coming for them.”
Fox is also facing several other legal battles over its broadcasting of false claims. Fellow voting machines company Smartmatic is suing Fox for US$2.7 billion (AU$4 billion). Former Fox staffer Abby Grossberg is also suing the company, claiming she was forced to give misleading testimony.
Even a Fox shareholder is suing the network, seeking damages and claiming that execs breached their fiduciary duty to the company by allowing the false election claims to be broadcast.
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