The Mercury News Weekend
Dominion voting case exposes post-election Fox News staff fears
A court filing in a lawsuit against Fox News lays bare a panic at the network that it had alienated its viewers and damaged its brand by not lining up with President Donald Trump's false claims that he had won the 2020 presidential election.
That worry — a real one, judging by Fox's ratings in the election's aftermath — played a key role in Fox not setting the record straight about unfounded fraud claims, the network's accuser contends.
“It's remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” the filing quotes Fox Washington news executive Bill Sammon as saying.
The details were included in a trove of private communications unearthed by lawyers and contained in a redacted brief filed Thursday by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion claims in a $1.6 billion lawsuit that Fox aired allegations that Dominion had doctored the vote against Trump, even as it knew that was untrue. Fox says it was doing its job as a news organization by airing the accusations made by Trump and his allies.
Fox's internal troubles began with a correct call: declaring on election night 2020 that Democrat Joe Biden had beaten Trump in Arizona. The declaration, coming ahead of other news organizations, infuriated the president and his fans. The backlash was noted in internal emails. “Holy cow, our audience is mad at the network,” said one, quoted by Dominion. “They're FURIOUS,” said another.
The court filings also detailed two instances where Fox News reporters were attacked internally for tweeting fact checks. In one, reporter Jacqui Heinrich tweeted that there was no evidence any voting system deleted, lost or changed votes.
“Please get her fired,” Fox prime-time star Tucker Carlson messaged fellow anchor Sean Hannity, saying Heinrich was hurting the company, according to the filing. Heinrich's tweet was later deleted.
She later retweeted the fact-check, removing the names of Hannity and Dobbs.
Carlson himself tried to “thread the needle,” Dominion said. It noted how he publicly stated that Powell had never provided evidence to back up her claims of fraud. “On the other hand, he did not say what he believed privately — that she was lying,” Dominion said.
Fox said many of its specific responses will come in a document that Superior Court Judge Eric Davis in Delaware ordered sealed until Feb. 27. Fox said Dominion had mischaracterized the record and cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context.