Fox News continues to be exposed for the dishonest organization that it is — this time, with the help of its billionaire owner.
A Monday filing in Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion lawsuit against the right-wing talk channel offered additional revelations — including the fact that Fox Corporation chair Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition that some of his top hosts were pushing election lies to his audience.
Murdoch rejected that Fox News, as an entity, endorsed former President Donald Trump’s election lies. But Murdoch conceded that Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and former host Lou Dobbs promoted falsehoods about the 2020 presidential contest being stolen.
"Yes. They endorsed," Murdoch said, according to the filing, when asked about the hosts' promotion of false claims about the election.
"I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight," the media mogul added at another point in the deposition.
That's just one of the several revelations included in Monday's filing. Here are some additional highlights:
► In the wake of the election, Murdoch wrote in an email to the New York Post's Col Allan, describing election lies that Trump was pushing as "bulls**t and damaging."
► Murdoch said it was "wrong" for Tucker Carlson to host conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell after the election. When asked why he continued to allow the MyPillow CEO to continue appearing on Fox News, Murdoch signaled it was a business decision. "It is not red or blue, it is green," he said. That's a shocking admission from Murdoch about what actually guides coverage at Fox News.
► Behind the scenes, Paul Ryan repeatedly warned the Murdochs to stop allowing the spread of election lies. The former House speaker said that Fox News should "move on from Donald Trump" and "stop spouting election lies." Ryan told the Murdochs that many of those who thought the election had been stolen did so "because they got a diet of information telling them the election was stolen from what they believe were credible sources." He was not wrong.
► Murdoch responded to one email from Ryan by telling him that Sean Hannity had "been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers." In other words, Hannity, who always claims to say the same things on camera as when he's off camera, was not being up front with his loyal audience for fear they'd rebel against him.
► Murdoch gave Jared Kushner "confidential information" about then-candidate Joe Biden's ads "along with debate strategy" in 2020, the filing said, offering Trump's son-in-law "a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public." At most news organizations, this type of action would result in an investigation and disciplinary measures.
► Murdoch asked Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to have Hannity say "something supportive" about Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham ahead of the 2020 election. Murdoch explained, "We cannot lose the Senate if at all possible." In other words, Murdoch was directing the head of his talk network to help the GOP. Again, this type of directive from an executive would be a major scandal at an actual news network.
► When Shepard Smith attacked the "Trump administration's 'lies'" on air, Rupert emailed Scott and Fox News president Jay Wallace calling it "Over the top!" and telling them, "Need to chat to him." In another instance, Lachlan Murdoch told Scott that then-correspondent Leland Vittert was "smug and obnoxious" when reporting from a Nov. 14 pro-Trump rally. Murdoch said the tone should be a "celebration of the president."
► Despite Fox accurately calling the race in Arizona for Biden, Murdoch suggested firing Bill Sammon, then the head of the network’s Washington bureau. "Maybe best to let Bill go right away," which would "be a big message with Trump people" the filing said. Sammon was later "told the inevitable" that day on Nov. 20, 2020.
► Murdoch said he "suggested or urged" the firing of host Lou Dobbs because he "was an extremist," but allowed him to continue hosting a program at the network until after the election. Dominion argues that's because Dobbs was popular with Trump and his supporters and the network was fending off viewer defections to Newsmax.
In totality, the documents continue to underscore that at its core, Fox News is not a news network. News networks work hard to deliver the truth to their viewers. These documents reveal that Fox News executives and hosts
knew the truth and yet they peddled election lies to the audience. And when the handful of hosts and correspondents who have integrity at the channel tried to be honest with viewers, the highest levels of Fox News worked against them.
The documents lay bare that the channel's business model is not based on informing its audience, but rather on feeding them content — even dangerous conspiracy theories — that keeps viewers happy and watching.
In response, Fox News said in a statement that Dominion's lawsuit "has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny." The network added, "Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear Fox for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment."
Top legal experts I've spoken to disagree with Fox News' assessment of Dominion's legal filings. But even if Dominion does not prevail in court, it has left a permanent stain on the channel and revealed its true motives.