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Thursday, April 20, 2023

the election Donald Trump lost .. .. .. and Fox news paying out-of-court for slander !!

This is no post on lakhs Crore asset value or 500 crore defamation suit ! – not a political post either !!

The elections on Nov 3, 2020 was followed globally – that election held in USA   was the 59th quadrennial presidential election. The Democratic ticket of former vice president Joe Biden and the junior U.S. senator from California Kamala Harris defeated the incumbent Republican president Donald Trump and incumbent vice president Mike Pence. The election took place against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic and related recession. It was the first election since 1992 in which the incumbent president failed to win a second term. The election saw the highest voter turnout by percentage since 1952, with each of the two main tickets receiving more than 74 million votes, surpassing Barack Obama's record of 69.5 million votes from 2008. Biden received more than 81 million votes, the most votes ever cast for a candidate in a U.S. presidential election.

1.    The Fox News Channel, abbreviated FNC, is an American multinational conservative news entertainment and political commentary television channel and website based in New York City. It is owned by Fox News Media, which itself is owned by the Fox Corporation. It is the most-watched cable network in the U.S.  The channel broadcasts primarily from studios at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan.  The channel was created by Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch in 1996 to appeal to a conservative audience, hiring former Republican media consultant and CNBC executive Roger Ailes as its founding CEO

2.   Dominion Voting Systems Corporation is a company that produces and sells electronic voting hardware and software, including voting machines and tabulators, in Canada and the United States.The company's headquarters are in Toronto, Ontario, where it was founded, and Denver, Colorado. It develops software in offices in the United States, Canada, and Serbia. Dominion produces electronic voting machines, which allow voters to cast their votes electronically as well as optical scanning devices used to tabulate paper ballots.

Defamation is the act of making  false statements about a person, place, or thing that results in damage to its reputation. It can be spoken (slander) or written (libel). It constitutes a tort or a crime. Calumny, Slander, libel, vilification, traducement – better known as ‘defamation’ – is the communication that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual but may give an individual or a Company – a negative image.  This is a serious offence in Western World.  This would include disparaging remarks of some one published or stated.   

Understand that in US, the person must first prove that the statement was false and then that the statement caused harm.  The person proving libel would also be required to prove that the statement was made without adequate truthfulness.  In some Nations, there are even criminal penalties for defamation on certain grounds.  Sometimes newspapers, magazines, newschannels go overboard; sometimes – a small slip-up could make them repent for life !


After Trump's defeat in the 2020 presidential election, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro promoted allegations on her program that Dominion and its competitor Smartmatic had conspired to rig the election against Trump. Hosts Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo also promoted the allegations on their programs on sister network Fox Business. That backfired !  In December 2020, Smartmatic sent a letter to Fox News demanding retractions and threatening legal action, specifying that retractions "must be published on multiple occasions" so as to "match the attention and audience targeted with the original defamatory publications." Days later, each of the three programs aired the same three-minute video segment consisting of an interview with an election technology expert who refuted the allegations promoted by the hosts, responding to questions from an unseen and unidentified man. None of the three hosts personally issued retractions. Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation suit against the network, the three hosts, Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell and Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in February 2021. In an April 2021 court brief seeking dismissal of the suit, Fox attorney Paul Clement argued that the network was simply "reporting allegations made by a sitting President and his lawyers”.

In December 2020, Dominion sent a similar letter demanding retractions to Trump attorney Sidney Powell,  who had promoted the allegations on Fox programs. On March 26, 2021, Dominion filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging that Fox and some of its pundits spread conspiracy theories about Dominion, and allowed guests to make false statements about the company.  Months later, Fox filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting a First Amendment right "to inform the public about newsworthy allegations of paramount public concern." The motion to dismiss was denied.

Specifically, Dominion focused on allegations made between November 2020 and January 2021 by Maria Bartiromo on her show Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo and Fox & Friends; and some other news items.  Guests who often appeared during these segments included Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.  Then came a ruling that Dominion suit would not be dismissed and that   Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and CEO Lachlan Murdoch may have acted with actual malice because there was a reasonable inference they "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."  

Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News Network (colloquially Dominion v. Fox) was a defamation lawsuit filed in March 2021 by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News Channel and its corporate parent Fox Corporation. Dominion's complaint sought $1.6 billion in damages, against  Fox News which  argued that it was reporting "pure opinion" regarding what others were saying which, if true, would be protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964).

In a March 31, 2023 summary judgment, Delaware Superior Court judge Eric M. Davis ruled that none of the statements Fox News made about Dominion were true and ordered a trial to determine if the network had acted with actual malice. Several prominent Fox News personalities and senior executives were expected to testify at trial.

Now comes the news that just  as opening statements were about to begin, the parties reached a settlement with Fox News agreeing to pay Dominion $787.5 million.[Rs 6400 crores approx. !!]

A few days ago, the night before the trial was scheduled to begin, Judge Davis announced a one-day delay, without any further details,  reportedly having asked the parties to try to settle.  CNN later reported the delay was to allow veteran mediator Jerry Roscoe time to attempt to reach a deal. On April 18, the trial was set to begin with opening statements, but was delayed again for the final time.  With the jury seated and attorneys about to make their opening statements, Davis announced Dominion and Fox News had reached a settlement. Fox agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million, one of the largest ever publicly known settlements in a US defamation case.  

Fox released a statement saying, in part, "We acknowledge the Court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards."  The settlement did not require Fox News to apologize for any wrongdoing in its programming. Strange are the ways of people ! – and understanding the case would require lot  of reading as libel cases and settlements out-of-court are sort of common in Western Countries.

Sukanya of Chinna Gounder, Indian and so many movies may not require any introduction.  She is a  singer, music composer, Bharatanatyam danseuse and voice actor too.  Few years ago,    Sukanya,  filed a defamation case  against ‘Nakkeeran’ – and after 15 odd years, Court acquitted its editor  Gopal,   directed Sun TV to pay Rs.10,00,500 to Sukanya as damages.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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