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Fox News lawyer: Executives not directly involved in post-election broadcasts

Attorneys representing Fox News and its corporate parent argued Wednesday that company executives had no direct involvement in a post-election broadcast in which an array of supporters of former President Donald Trump made false claims about election fraud. Focused on companies that make voting machines.

What fight identified as Fox Dominion Voting System Fox attorney Erin Murphy said that to prove defamation, “you have to show that they, in fact, directly participated,” using the “royal star” to describe the chain of command between corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and the corporation’s executives, including the news network.

The arguments came as a Delaware Superior Court judge asked each side to rule on their own merits and avoid what was expected to be a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp. A lengthy jury trial will follow next month.

Judge Eric M. Davis did not indicate how he plans to rule, but noted that he is taking the plaintiffs’ requests seriously because “the parties have shown me that this is a very difficult case.” He informed them in the courtroom that he would take the matter under advisement and submit his decision either in writing or through a formal presentation and then proceeded to discuss the logistics surrounding the possible trial, which is set to begin on April 17.

Rupert Murdoch has called off a proposed merger of News Corp. and Fox

A Fox logo is displayed on the News Corporation building on January 25, 2023 in New York City.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/Getty Images

Dominion, Denver-based Electronic Voting Hardware and Software CompanyIn 2021 Fox sued both News and its parent company Fox Corporation for defamation. Dominion argues that in the run-up to the 2020 election, Fox News employees falsely claimed that Dominion had altered the polls and gave guests a platform to make false and defamatory statements, even though they knew the claims were false, and they did so to avoid alienating their conservative audience. .

In a statement after Wednesday’s hearing, Fox accused Dominion of presenting “cherry-picked quotes without context.” “This case is ultimately about the First Amendment protection of the media’s absolute need to cover the news,” Fox said.

Responding to arguments from the Dominion team on Tuesday, Murphy disputed allegations that Fox’s corporate parents acted with actual malice, meaning they knew the claims were false or acted with reckless disregard for whether they were false. Murphy argued that corporate executives, such as Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch, were not involved in publishing the allegations.

In that regard, Murphy said that while executives may be aware of guest appearances on a given Fox News show, that’s not the same as knowing what will be said about Dominion.

To prove Dominion’s defamation case, “you have to bring it to the person directly involved in publishing it,” Murphy said, in this case he claims Fox Corp. is not.

Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson disagreed, pointing to evidence during discovery that he said Murdoch and other executives decided to let the statements air “to appeal to an audience.”

“This was a strategic decision that was elevated to the highest levels of the company,” Nelson said. “At that point they knew they were saying crazy things.”

Murphy maintained that Fox News was only covering newsworthy statements made by the then-president and his legal team, noting that in the weeks following the 2020 election, Fox News covered several allegations of election fraud, only those claims were not directed at Dominion.

In rebuttal, the Dominion team continued to argue that Fox called the statements in question “allegations” akin to “verbal confetti” or “fairy dust” and did not protect the company from guilt by turning those perceived facts into opinions. “These things either happened or they didn’t,” said Dominion attorney Rodney Smolla.

“It’s not our position that just because the guest speaks, we’re off the hook,” Murphy said in response. “What we’re saying is you have to look at the context and see what’s being discussed.”

After a lengthy hearing on Tuesday, the parties returned to court in Wilmington on Wednesday to argue their case for summary judgment. Davis made it clear that he wanted each side’s legal teams to take all the time they needed to present their arguments and asked them to “educate me,” explaining that he had not “pre-decided” how to rule.

On Tuesday, Dominion argued that it had shown material gathered in discovery was a “deliberate” decision Allowing false claims to exist — all the way up the chain of command — by those responsible for broadcasting It was to “release the Kraken,” said Dominion attorney Rodney Smolla, echoing one-time Trump attorney Sidney Powell’s unfulfilled promise of evidence that the election was stolen from Trump.

Monday, a Fox News producer who worked for hosts Maria Bartiromo and Tucker Carlson A pair filed a lawsuit against the network, His legal team allegedly “coerced” him into giving misleading testimony Defamation case and accused the company of fostering a “toxic” work environment.

The producer, Abby Grossberg, previously worked as a producer for CBS News.

Davis said Grossberg submitted an error sheet to the court Monday night, informing the court of corrections to his deposition transcript, which now records answers to questions at the center of his case. He indicated that Fox had attempted to submit his error on grounds of privilege that he said seemed “counterintuitive,” but was allowing their legal team to submit a letter detailing their argument.

In a statement, Fox News said: “Fox News Media immediately engaged independent outside counsel to investigate the concerns raised by Ms. Grossberg, which followed a critical performance review. Her allegations with Dominion’s lawsuit are unfounded. We will. Vigorously defend Fox against all of her claims.” And we are confident that we will win.”

Outside of court, neither legal team responded to questions about the potential settlement. If the case goes to trial next month, Davis calculated from the bench that the court would take 25 business days, or 137.5 hours, including time for lunch and other breaks. Davis also took the opportunity before the hearing adjourned to praise the attorneys, in light of the hours spent arguing the motions, saying they were well-educated in these matters and adding, “These clients are very well represented.”

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