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Fox Corp. Must Face $1.6 Billion Defamation Lawsuit That Dominion Claims Goes to the Top of the Murdoch Empire, Judge Rules

Former Fox host Lou Dobbs interviews Sidney Powell.

Former Fox host Lou Dobbs interviews Sidney Powell.

Just days after advancing Dominion’s lawsuit against Newsmax, a judge allowed the voting machine company at the center of pro-Trump conspiracy theories to sue Fox Corporation in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit that allegedly goes to the top of Rupert Murdoch’s dynasty.

“We are pleased to see this process moving forward to hold Fox Corporation and the Murdochs accountable,” a Dominion spokesperson said in a statement.

Dominion’s lawsuit contends that Rupert and his son Lachlan Murdoch personally caused Fox News to broadcast false claims about their role in the 2020 election, even though the Murdochs knew former President Donald Trump’s election fraud narrative was false. Lachlan Murdoch is the CEO of Fox Corporation.

On Nov. 6, 2020, Rupert Murdoch reportedly spoke to Trump and told him he lost. The News Corp CEO also allegedly called a Republican leader the day after the election “urging him to ask other senior Republicans to refuse to endorse Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories and baseless claims of fraud,” according to the lawsuit.

Print outlets under the News Corp empire like the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal denounced Trump’s claims and urged him to concede defeat.

For Judge Eric M. Davis, those reports are enough at this stage to show Dominion adequately pleaded actual malice.

“These allegations support a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth when they allegedly caused Fox News to propagate its claims about Dominion,” the 25-page ruling states. “Thus, Dominion has successfully brought home actual malice to the individuals at Fox Corporation who it claims to be responsible for the broadcasts.”

Dominion has argued that Newsmax and One America News Network (OAN) engaged in a “race to the bottom” in an effort to court pro-Trump viewers dissatisfied with Fox News calling Arizona for Joe Biden. For Fox, indulging in Trump’s election misinformation was a way to keep their viewers, Dominion says.

Now, all three networks remain potentially on the hook for billions in damages.

A Fox spokesperson did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s email requesting comment.

The network notched a smaller victory in securing the dismissal of subsidiary Fox Broadcasting.

“The Court finds that Dominion fails to plead actual malice with respect to Fox Broadcasting even under Delaware’s minimal pleading standard,” the ruling states.

The judge said that Dominion did not provide any detailed allegations about the subsidiary’s “subjective knowledge or decision-making.”

“Again, the complaint does not even identify who at Fox Broadcasting was responsible for the publications,” the ruling states. “This is also true as to Dominion’s argument that Fox Broadcasting ‘knew’ that Fox News ‘was scrambling to avoid losing viewers to Newsmax and OAN, making it more likely that [Fox News] would publish unreliable reports from untrustworthy sources, such as [Rudy] Giuliani, [so-called ‘Kraken’ lawyer Sidney] Powell, and [MyPillow salesman Mike] Lindell.”

Powell is now fighting for her license after a federal judge ruled that she and her co-counsel should face sanctions, plus possible suspension or disbarment, for their efforts to overturn the election results in Michigan. The State Bar of Texas filed an ethics complaint against her that Powell is trying to dismiss at a hearing slated for today.

According to a key witness at Tuesday’s Jan. 6 Committee hearing, Giuliani acknowledged that he had “lots of theories” about 2020 election fraud but not “evidence.”

Read the ruling, below:

[image via Fox Business screengrab/Dominion lawsuit]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."