Former AG Barr defends Fox News in op-ed about Dominion lawsuit

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Former Attorney General William Barr defended Fox News from claims of defamation brought in court by Dominion Voting Systems in an opinion column published in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

Calling the voting tech provider’s case against the cable news giant “weak,” Barr argued a ruling against Fox would severely weaken the First Amendment protection that all news media enjoy.

“A ruling against Fox would be a major blow to media freedoms generally, subjecting news outlets to the prospect of outsize liability whenever they report on newsworthy allegations that turn out to be false,” Barr wrote in the op-ed published Thursday evening.

The former attorney general’s line of thinking mirrors arguments Fox’s lawyers have been making in court documents and public statements for months: that Fox was not responsible for the claims made by Trump’s allies about voter fraud and the fact the president of the United States was making those claims was newsworthy.

Dominion has charged top executives and hosts at Fox knew the allegations being made by Trump and his allies were false but decided to air them anyway. The voting systems company has unearthed in court filings in recent weeks a series of internal communications and depositions from leaders at Fox showing them privately dismissing Trump’s claims of voter fraud but worrying how the network’s audience might react to fact checks of those claims.

In a statement on Friday, Dominion said the company “is a strong believer in the First Amendment and its protections.”

“As long-settled law makes clear, the First Amendment does not shield broadcasters that knowingly or recklessly spread lies,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Fox has argued the internal communications of its employees have been “cherry picked” and do not prove the network acted with actual malice, a key legal standard in defamation cases, toward Dominion.

“Conservatives shouldn’t try to weaken the actual-malice standard. For the foreseeable future, we will likely be on the wrong side of the culture-setting consensus,” wrote Barr, who famously rebuked Trump’s claims of voter fraud before resigning from his administration. “The left should think twice about cheering for Dominion in this case. While the left has more artillery, it also has more targets for defamation cases, as left-wing media outlets far outnumber conservative ones.”

Updated at 3:08 p.m.

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