In Private, Fox Stars Mocked Election Fraud Claims

Text messages from Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham appear in Dominion lawsuit filing
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2023 6:49 AM CST
In Private, Fox Stars Mocked Election Fraud Claims
This combination photo shows, from left, Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," and Sean Hannity, host of "Hannity" on Fox News.   (AP Photo/File)

Fox News hosts and execs not only didn't believe the election fraud claims the network gave a lot of airtime to in 2020, they privately mocked guests like Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, according to a Thursday filing in Dominion Voting System's defamation lawsuit against the network. "Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane," Tucker Carlson wrote in a Nov. 18 message to Laura Ingraham, per the New York Times. She replied: "Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy." Dominion says no Fox witnesses have testified that they believed the allegations about its machines being used to "steal" the 2020 election from then-President Trump. In a deposition, Sean Hannity said, "that whole narrative that Sidney was pushing, I did not believe it for one second." More:

  • Lies were "good for business." The defamation suit argues that Fox pushed election conspiracy theories because they were "good for Fox's business," CNN reports. Numerous messages in Thursday's filing show how hosts and execs, worried about losing viewers to Newsmax, pushed back against people challenging the false claims. After correspondent Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked a Trump tweet claiming there was election fraud, Carlson asked host Sean Hannity to "please get her fired." "It needs to stop immediately, like tonight," he wrote. "It’s measurably hurting the company." Heinrich's tweet was deleted the next day.

  • Doubts went right to the top. The messages show that Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch called Trump's election fraud claims "really crazy stuff, " the Times reports. CNN reports that he floated the idea of having Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham appear together to declare Joe Biden the election winner, saying the move would "go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election stolen." NPR notes that Murdoch appeared to be one of the only people concerned about "the journalistic values of fairness and accuracy."
  • Fox employees also disparaged each other. In one message, Fox News president Jay Wallace slammed then-host Lou Dobbs, one of the most vocal backers of Trump's claims, saying, "The North Koreans do a more nuanced show."
  • Fox fires back. Dominion, which is suing for $1.6 billion, argues that Fox deliberately amplified false claims and gave people like Powell and Giuliani a platform to air defamatory statements. In a counterclaim unsealed Thursday, Fox said the lawsuit was filed to punish it for "reporting on one of the biggest stories of the day," the AP reports. Fox lawyers accused Dominion of exaggerating the damage to its reputation, saying $1.6 billion is "a staggering figure that has no factual support."
  • Could Dominion win? Legal experts say that while many similar lawsuits fail and it will be tough for Dominion to prove Fox acted with "actual malice," the company has a stronger case than most. "This filing argues a fire hose of direct evidence of knowing falsity,” RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor of law at the SJ Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, tells the Times. "It gives a powerful preview of one of the best-supported claims of actual malice we have seen in any major-media case."
(More Fox News stories.)

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