Will Rupert Murdoch Show Up When Fox News Squares Off Against Dominion?
Fox News is about to have one of its biggest events in years, and everyone from CEO Suzanne Scott to prominent anchors like Tucker Carlson and Maria Bartiromo to primetime chief Meade Cooper is likely to attend some part of it. If Fox’s parent company has its way, however, Rupert Murdoch, the guiding force behind much of Fox Corporation, will not.
Starting as soon as April 17, Fox Corp. could square off in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware and face allegations of defamation from Dominion Voting Systems in a whopping $1.6 billion-dollar suit that is sure to generate headlines. Before any of that can start, however, the two sides appear to locked in a battle over whether the Fox Corp. executive chairman, and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch, should be present in court to give testimony.
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“Although Dominion seeks to compel Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Viet Dinh, and Paul Ryan, the Court should decline to compel their appearance at trial due to the hardships on those witnesses, and the undue burden given their limited knowledge of pertinent facts,” reads a March 20 letter to Judge Eric M. Davis, the judge presiding over the legal matter, from Katherine Mowery, an attorney representing Fox, also alluding to Viet Dinh, Fox Corp.’s chief legal officer, and Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who sits on Fox Corp.’s board of directors. “Compelling live testimony at trial will add nothing other than media interest. But this is a trial, not a public relations campaign. Trial
management and efficiency, respect for the Court and the jury, relevance of the witnesses, and the interests of a fair trial all weigh in favor of playing these witnesses’ deposition testimony, not forcing them to testify live.”
At issue in the case are damages Dominion alleges it is owed after Fox News aired false claims about its actions and influence on the 2020 election. It is the second legal proceeding made against Fox News for its coverage of the aftermath of the 2020 race for the White House. Smartmatic, a separate voting technology company, has filed a massive $2.7 billion suit against Fox News. Both suits allege that Fox News falsely claimed the companies had rigged the election, repeated items about the matter and then refused to engage in efforts to set the record straight. The 2020 election was not fixed and its results were certified by multiple legal processes.
Attorney Mowery goes on to argue that Rupert Murdoch “was far removed from the events in dispute,” and that Lachlan Murdoch “has no role in this case.” Dinh and Ryan “played limited roles in this case and already provided whatever testimony they could possibly offer during their lengthy depositions.”
In a hearing that took place Tuesday, Judge Davis suggested some of the executives may be ordered to come to Wilmington, Delaware, where the case will be heard. The judge cited reports of Rupert Murdoch traveling “between his various residences between L.A., Montana, New York and London. That doesn’t sound like someone who can’t go from New York to Wilmington.”
The judge added: “If a compelling argument is made, I can compel them to come down.”
The Murdochs would be in good company. Among the Fox News staffers who are currently listed as prepared to provide live testimony are anchors and opinion hosts including Bret Baier, Dana Perino, Will Cain and Sean Hannity. Tucker Carlson’s top producer, Justin Wells, could be on hand, as could Lauren Petterson, the executive who oversees Fox Business Network and talent development for both Fox Business and Fox News. Even Lou Dobbs, the Fox Business firebrand whose long-running program was cancelled in the wake of President Biden’s victory in 2020 and the filing of the Smartmatic lawsuit, could be on hand at some point.
But the comfort of sitting with longtime staffers may not be enough for the corporate chieftains. “Dominion’s needlessly expansive live witness list is yet another attempt to generate headlines and distract from the many shortcomings of its case. Fox said in a statement Tuesday. “Ultimately, this case is about the First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news.”
Over the next few days, Fox and Dominion will have to come to an agreement over a list of live witnesses who will have to show up in court at some point. The Murdochs could be forced to line up just like the rest of their employees.
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