Fox News’s parent company can be sued by a voting-machine maker falsely accused of rigging the 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump because Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch may have exercised control over coverage, a judge ruled.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis on Tuesday denied Fox Corp.’s motion to dismiss the suit by Dominion Voting Systems, saying the plaintiff had shown that the Murdochs may have acted with “actual malice” by broadcasting conspiracy theories about vote-rigging.
Davis, who previously allowed Dominion’s claims against Fox News to proceed, pointed to evidence cited by Dominion suggesting that the Murdochs knew the claims about vote-rigging were false, including that Rupert Murdoch spoke with Trump a few days after the election “and informed him that he had lost.” The voting-technology firm was also able to point to a claim that Murdoch urged a Republican leader to ask other politicians in the party not to endorse Trump’s false theory about Dominion.
The judge further noted that “other newspapers under Rupert Murdoch’s control — including the Wall Street Journal and New York Post — condemned President Trump’s claims and urged him to concede defeat.”
“These allegations support a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth when they allegedly caused Fox News to propagate its claims about Dominion,” Davis said.
As for the Murdochs, Davis ruled claims of actual malice had been met with respect to four specific allegations, including that the Murdochs “caused Fox News to broadcast false claims about Dominion even though they did not personally believe former President Trump’s election fraud narrative.”
All those allegations support Dominion’s claim, for now, that Fox Corp. was on notice that claims being made on-air by some of its personalities and guests, including then-Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, were bogus.
Even so, the judge dismissed Dominion’s claim against the company’s Fox Broadcasting subsidiary, ruling Dominion hadn’t supported its claim of “actual malice” by the subsidiary. Parts of the lawsuit blaming Fox Broadcasting for reposting false statements online offer “no factual support,” the judge said.