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Fox News settles defamation lawsuit for $787.5 million over coverage of vote-rigging claims

American news network Fox News has settled a high-profile defamation lawsuit for $787.5 million. The defamation case against the conservative news entertainment and political commentary television channel and website was taken by voting equipment company Dominion.

The company argued that Fox, the most-watched U.S. cable news network, caused damage to its reputation with its coverage of claims the company’s equipment was facilitating vote-rigging during the 2020 presidential election. 

Dominion contended that its business was ruined by the false vote-rigging claims that were aired by the news outlet. The trial was to determine whether Fox’s coverage crossed the line between ethical journalism and an effort for ratings, as Dominion alleged and Fox denied.

Last night, it emerged that Fox News and parent company Fox Corp agreed to a $787.5m (£633m) settlement with the voting machine firm, avoiding a high-profile defamation trial. The last-minute settlement was announced after a 12-person jury had been selected and both sides were due to give their opening statements in Delaware Superior Court.

“The parties have resolved their case,” Judge Eric Davis told jurors on Tuesday afternoon before he excused them from the courtroom.

Dominion, suing Fox News Network and its parent company Fox Corp, said that Fox had repeatedly broadcast allegations made by allies of former US President Donald Trump that the voting software had flipped votes to Joe Biden – even though many at Fox were dubious about the claims.

Dominion, who had sought $1.6bn in damages, settled for less than half that amount. Speaking following the settlement, one of its lawyers, Justin Nelson, said that “grievous harm” had been done by the theories.

“The truth matters, lies have consequences,” he said.

“Over two years ago, a torrent of lies swept Dominion and election officials across America into an alternative universe of conspiracy theories causing grievous harm to Dominion and the country,” he added.

Meanwhile, Fox said it was “hopeful” that the major settlement  with Dominion would allow the country to “move forward”.

The news was broken on the Fox News show ‘Your World,’ with anchor Neil Cavuto reading a statement by Fox live on air.

“We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems,” the statement read. “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. 

“This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”

Meanwhile, Dominion lawyers declined to answer questions about whether Fox News would apologise publicly or make changes.

The mammoth settlement marks the largest amount of money paid to conclude an American media libel case, according to Richard Tofel, principal of Gallatin Advisory. Previously, the highest payment was ordered in 2017 when Walt Disney Co were forced to pay $177 million, along with insurance recoveries, to settle the “pink slime” defamation case against its ABC network by Beef Products Inc.

Fox is not out of the headlights just yet though – as the news network faces another $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting technology company. The defamation lawsuit alleges that Fox News “decimated” its business through knowingly making “over 100 false statements and implications” about the company and giving a platform to false information.

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