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Rupert Murdoch Begins Two-Day Stint on Hot Seat in $1.6 Billion Defamation Deposition

Rupert Murdoch

In this Oct. 30, 2018 file photo, Rupert Murdoch introduces Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the Herman Kahn Award Gala, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Rupert Murdoch began his two-day deposition stint on Thursday morning in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit accusing Fox News of pushing misinformation about Dominion Voting Systems in an effort to keep Donald Trump supporters as viewers.

The CEO of News Corp., the network’s corporate parent, will return to the hot seat on Friday.

Among their flurry of litigation against conservative and far-right media outlets, Dominion filed two complaints in a state court in Delaware against various Fox entities. One targeted the Fox Corporation and Fox Broadcasting, while the other named Fox News Network, LLC, as the defendant.

The lawsuits contend that Rupert and his son Lachlan Murdoch had Fox News amplify false claims about Dominion machines’ role in the 2020 election, even though the Murdochs knew Trump’s election fraud narrative was false. Lachlan Murdoch is the CEO of Fox Corporation.

Last year, Judge Eric M. Davis advanced portions of both of those lawsuits, though he dismissed Fox Broadcasting as a defendant in one of them.

On Jan. 11, Dominion notified the court of Rupert Murdoch’s imminent deposition, slated for this Thursday at 10 a.m. ET, to be continued on Friday.

Dominion’s spokesperson declined to comment on the arrival of that date, except to reiterate their claims that Fox “knowingly spread lies.”

“From the highest levels down, Fox knowingly spread lies about Dominion, causing enormous and irreparable damage,” a Dominion spokesperson said. “Instead of acting responsibly and showing remorse, Fox instead has doubled down by publicly stating that they are proud of their Dominion-related coverage. We’re focused on holding Fox accountable and are confident the truth will ultimately prevail.”

Under the actual malice standard in defamation law, litigants must show that a public figure or news organization knowingly published false statements or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.

Denying having done this, Fox claims that its “responsible journalists” aimed only to cover “both sides” of the controversy. The network has depicted Dominion’s lawsuit as a threat to press freedom.

“The freedoms of speech and press would be illusory if the prevailing party could obtain billions of dollars from the press for providing the losing side a forum,” their lawyers argued in a (since-failed) motion to dismiss.

Declining to comment on the deposition, FOX News Media sent the following statement about the case more broadly: “There is nothing more newsworthy than covering the president of the United States and his lawyers making allegations of voter fraud.”

Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic have sued multiple news organizations for billions, claiming that they purposefully pushed election fraud lies about their voting machines. Dominion’s lawsuits against One America News (OAN) and NewsMax accused those far-right networks of engaging in a “race to the bottom,” after Fox potentially alienated Trump supporters by calling Arizona’s race for President Joe Biden.

Smartmatic has noted that the conspiracy theories about their voting machines make even less sense. Only Los Angeles County, California — a Democratic stronghold whose outcome was never in doubt — used Smartmatic machines in the 2020 presidential election.

A trial has been slated to begin on April 17.

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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."