'Demonic force': Dominion lawsuit reveals Fox knowingly spread election lies

Shocked, shocked that Tucker Carlson spread Trump's lies

'Demonic force': Dominion lawsuit reveals Fox knowingly spread election lies
The Fox ticker at the News Corp. building in New York City reports Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. Fox then continued to spread election despite Biden’s victory (Shutterstock photo).
“71 million voters will never accept Biden. This process is to destroy his presidency before it even starts; IF it even starts….We either close on Trumps victory or del[e]gitimize Biden….THE PLAN.” – Trump ally Steve Bannon to Fox host Maria Bartiromo, November 10, 2020.

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox channel, long a major distributor of disinformation, knowingly spread lies about the 2020 election. That’s the argument, backed by mounds of compelling evidence, made by Dominion Voting Systems in its $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox.

The 159-page filing outlines how Fox repeatedly promoted the false conspiracy theories about Dominion’s role in the 2020 election — despite fully understanding these claims were lies.

“Fox knew the truth knew the allegations against Dominion were outlandish and crazy and ludicrous and nuts,” write Dominion’s lawyers in a newly-released filing. “Yet it used the power and influence of its platform to promote that false story.”

(We highly recommend reading the entire filing, which you can find here.)

Such allegations are hardly surprising to readers of the FrameLab newsletter. Fox has worked for decades to create an alternate reality for its conservative viewer base. It’s a key weapon in the conservative information war against democracy and truth.

Still, it’s shocking to witness the degree to which Fox’s main personalities — including Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and multiple top executives at the organization — secretly expressed disgust at Trump’s false attacks on American democracy. Of course, their private disgust did not stop them from doing everything they could to help spread these lies to Fox’s tens of millions of viewers.

Dominion’s filing includes an amazing trove of email and text messages from inside Fox.

“Sidney Powell is lying,” Fox host Tucker Carlson wrote to his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, on Nov. 16, 2020.

(Powell, the main attorney pushing Trump’s baseless election claims, would later admit in a court filing that “no reasonable person would conclude that [her] statements were truly statements of fact.”)

“Sidney Powell is a bit nuts,” wrote Laura Ingraham to Carlson and Fox host Sean Hannity on Nov. 15, 2020. “Sorry but she is.”

“Really crazy stuff,” wrote Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of the company that owns Fox.

Of course, Fox repeatedly aired Trump’s false election claims in order to placate its Trump-crazed viewers, who were unwilling to accept the reality of Trump’s defeat. Dominion’s legal filing provides a glimpse of Fox’s struggle to compete with even more unhinged conservative disinformation outlets like Newsmax.

Fox worked for decades to create a viewer base disconnected from reality, but it has now become a victim of its own success. Part of Fox’s shtick has always been to present itself as a legitimate news network. Remember the company’s laughable and Orwellian “fair and balanced” slogan? But Trump did much to turn the Republican base against the very idea of journalism, and the base has now developed a taste for even stronger forms of falsehood.

Case in point: On Nov. 5, 2020, Fox quickly found itself facing an existential crisis when it correctly reported that Joe Biden had won Arizona.

“Fox's Chief White House Correspondent told Sammon and FNC President Jay Wallace, ‘we are taking major heat over the AZ call Our viewers are also chanting ‘Fox News sucks,’ something I have never heard before,” reads Dominion filing.

The anger from Fox viewers intensified after the outlet called the election for Biden on Nov. 7. Fox’s audience began to shrink as angry viewers opted for rival Newsmax, which was enthusiastically promoting “an alternative universe” based on Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.

How did Fox respond? By jumping on Trump’s conspiracy theory bandwagon of lies in order to compete with Newsmax. Instead of protecting the truth and protecting democracy, Fox sought to “protect the brand” by spreading lies.

“It’s remarkable how weak ratings make [] good journalist do bad things,” said Bill Sammon, SVP and Managing Editor of Fox News’ Washington bureau, according to the filing.

Fox repeatedly aired false claims about the election, putting Dominion Voting Systems at the center of a made-up conspiracy theory to create doubt about the election. It repeatedly platformed Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, fully knowing they would spread lies.

“By November 12, Dominion became a focal point of discussion within multiple shows at Fox,” states the legal filing. “Spurred by the November 8 Bartiromo broadcast, the wild Dominion allegations entered the mainstream.”

Fox also began exerting pressure on any of its employees who insisted on pushing back against the election lies. When Fox employee Jacqui Heinrich tweeted a fact check about a Trump tweet about the election, Tucker Carlson exploded.

“Please get her fired,” he said to Sean Hannity, according to the filing. “Seriously What the f---? actually shocked. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It's measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”

Heinrich soon deleted her tweet.

The Dominion filing is a delicious and revelatory historical document that removes any doubt about Fox’s status as a disinformation operation that is willing to sacrifice American democracy in exchange for ratings. It paints a damning picture of Fox’s depraved mentality at a time when it faces stiff competition from newer disinformation outlets.

Perhaps the most amazing line of the filing reveals what Tucker Carlson really thinks of Donald Trump. While publicly sucking up to Trump’s followers, Carlson privately called Trump “a demonic force, a destroyer” on Jan. 6, 2021.

“But he’s not going to destroy us,” he added, making it clear that money and self-interest are more important than democracy, morality or truth.

The Dominion filing notes that Fox Executive David Clark had previously testified that Newsmax was not a credible media outlet because “their hosts were extremely one sided, ignored the facts, they did not seem to care about telling the truth, they seemed to invest truly in conspiracy theories versus fact."

True, but his words also provide a stunningly accurate description of Fox.

The station’s falsehoods helped Steve Bannon carry out his stated plan to cast doubt about the 2020 election (see quote at top of this piece) and thus directly contributed to the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol.

Keep an eye on Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox. The outcome will also deliver a verdict on the state of our democracy in an age of weaponized disinformation.

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Further readings:

Fox stars privately expressed disbelief about election fraud claims. ‘Crazy Stuff’” (New York Times)

Meet the judge deciding the $1.6 billion defamation case against Fox.” (NPR)

Tucker Carlson calls Donald Trump a ‘demonic force’ in new legal filing” (Rolling Stone)

Full PDF of Dominion’s filing against Fox

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