Will the Fox-Dominion Settlement Affect Its News Coverage? Don’t Count on It.
After the 2020 election, the story within Fox News was all about the “pivot.” That is, to redirect coverage away from former President Donald J. Trump and toward more traditional Republican politics favored by Network founder Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch said at the time that he wanted Trump to be “unattended.” As recently as he was dismissed in January as part of his Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox, his feelings remained unchanged. “I still want to do it,” Murdoch said.
But Fox’s audience, the engine of Fox’s profits and the largest audience in all of cable, may not accept him.
Fox’s $787.5 million settlement with Dominion this week will likely disappoint those expecting the network to be more humble or gentle. There probably won’t be much change in how we positively report on issues that resonate with us.
“How are you going to argue against a host not to do something highly rated?” Former Fox News editor who was fired by the network in 2021 to become a witness in the Dominion scandal Chris Stillwalt, the on-air personality who was in line, said.
After being away from the network for much of 2022, Trump is back on Fox News. In his less than a month, he participated in three of his interviews with the network. The latest, recorded earlier this month with Mark Levin, airs on Sunday.
Even voter fraud — the issue that led to Fox being sued for billions of dollars by Dominion and another voting technology company, Smartmatic — hasn’t gone away entirely. In a recent interview with Fox host Tucker Carlson, Trump hinted that he had good reason to doubt the legitimacy of President Biden’s victory, saying, “People can’t say he won the election. I can,” he said.
Mr. Carlson, too, has been leaning toward election denial recently. “Jan. His personal text messages revealed as part of the Dominion lawsuit show him talking to producers. There was no evidence that
In the short term, it seems unlikely that Murdoch will make any major changes to Fox’s assets. Doing so would be seen as a kind of admission of wrongdoing, which he dislikes.The Dominion settlement did not include an apology. There was only a brief mention of the judge’s discovery that Fox broadcast false statements about the Dominion machine and its role in a fantastical conspiracy to steal the election from Trump.
The $787.5 million payout is huge, and as one of the largest settlements to date in a defamation case, it has admitted itself to some kind of wrongdoing. But Mr. Murdoch’s phone hacking scandal involving a British newspaper didn’t amount to the personal humiliation of his. Then, in 2011, he had to appear before Congress to make amends for a journalist illegally hacking a celebrity’s voicemail account. He had a foam pie thrown in his face and admitted in his testimony, “This is the humblest day of my life.”
But his leading American news channel shows little humility. On Tuesday, he devoted two short segments to news of the Dominion settlement. Shortly thereafter, it returned to the same topic since Mr. Biden was elected.
News reports about immigration surges at the southern border appear under the heading “Biden Border Crisis.” A Republican lawmaker’s efforts to pass a law banning transgender girls from his school sports teams have received a lot of attention. President Biden has been variously portrayed as inconsistent, corrupt and weak, especially when it comes to his stance on China. Footage plays on a loop of criminals looting stores, assaulting police officers, and attacking unwitting bystanders. Perpetrators are often black.
Even Trump’s lies about cheating in the 2020 presidential election are showing up here and there. Last week, right-wing commentator Clay Travis appeared on “Jesse Watters Primetime,” replacing a more outspoken news show at 7pm last year, and Mr. Biden said, “They rigged the entire election. Later, he won by just 20,000 votes, after hiding everything related to Hunter Biden, Big Tech, Big Media, and the big Democratic collusion that all worked in his favor.
Watters did not correct or respond to these statements on air.
Stories of voter fraud, often exaggerated and unsubstantiated, have been part of the network’s DNA long before 2020. Polls fraud after former President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney.
But there are some subtle signs that Fox wants to get past the Dominion episode and the embarrassing disclosures of network executives who personally downplayed the same fraud claims they allowed on air. We have launched a promotional campaign highlighting our team of global correspondents with second ads. “We have a mission to report big stories on the ground,” he says. Tensions between the news division and primetime hosts were exposed as part of the Dominion case, in which private messages from late 2020 showed hosts like Carlson and Sean Hannity calling Fox Washington bureau reporters It shows that you have ridiculed and complained. Check the facts of the former president’s fraud claims.
And last week, Fox chose not renew contract Dan Bonzino, one of the loudest election naysayers on the payroll, was a former host of The Saturday Night Show.
A Fox News spokesperson said in a written statement that the network has “substantially increased its investment in journalism over the past few years, further expanding its national and international news gathering efforts.” “We are extremely proud of our team of journalists,” the statement added.
Trump is arguably one of the biggest talking points at the moment, putting network leadership in a less-than-ideal position. “Idiot,” “just stupid,” and “I can’t control my egomania.” His personal politics are much closer to that of an established Republican who resembles the mold of Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell, whom Ailes worked as a media consultant for decades earlier.
Even if Trump is no longer the singular Republican figure he once was, he can still be held in high esteem. An interview with Mr. Carlson, who was indicted in Manhattan on felony charges, drew an audience of 3.7 million. An interview Carlson gave to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a few weeks ago drew 3.1 million people.
Ultimately, regardless of Murdoch’s tastes, it may be the numbers that determine how Fox reports on the former president.
Former Fox executive John Ellis wrap up The conundrum the network has for audiences in a newsletter after Trump announced his 2024 campaign — an event broadcast live by Fox News. “Fox News’ power to influence the outcome of the Republican primary can be decisive,” he wrote.
“If Fox News decides to beat Trump, he probably won’t win the 2024 nomination,” Ellis added. “But to beat him, Fox News would have to get viewers’ permission.”
Michael M. Grynbaum contributed to the report.