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If you have followed any of the reports from the defamation lawsuit brought forward by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News you have likely heard some variation that the news channel has been exposed as knowingly lying on the air. At CNN, their media savant Oliver Darcy has been all over the case, calling the revelations “explosive”, “a major blow”, and a “smoking gun.”
Okay Ollie, calm down. Go have yourself a cigarette now and shower off, we’ll take it from here.
The New York Times has been barely more reserved. “The revelations,” the paper said, “made public in a defamation lawsuit against Fox brought by Dominion Voting Systems, have generated headlines around the world.” (It’s rather cute when the people generating those headlines make it appear as an organic discovery.)
If these hyperbolic headlines carry the tinge of years of “bombshell!” news reports over the years which failed to actually detonate, that is an accurate reaction. Yes, the revealed internal communications seem to contradict a narrative of claiming there were voting machine theories delivering rigged results, but there is a reality that needs to be addressed: The details are not exactly as they are being sold.
The bombast we are seeing this week centers on testimony from Fox kahuna Rupert Murdoch, as well as text messages from various Fox News hosts openly contradicting the storyline of Dominion machines altering voter results. It is being said that the hosts have been exposed saying one thing privately while going on the air and blaming Dominion with knowing deception.
That would constitute defamation, as the company is claiming.
A cache of behind-the-scenes messages included in the legal filing showed Fox Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch called Trump’s claims “really crazy stuff,” and the cable network’s stars — including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham — brutally mock the lies being pushed by the former president’s camp asserting that the election was rigged.
But in reading through the coverage one line happened to leap out at me.
Darcy, in setting up the grave justice potentially facing Fox News, described what is transpiring in a curious fashion. As Darcy paraphrases the comments he gleaned from some legal experts, note the curious way this sentence is structured – with me highlighting the telling aspects.
The network’s executives and hosts privately blasted the election fraud claims being peddled by Donald Trump’s team, despite allowing lies about the 2020 contest to be promoted on its air.
These seem to be very particular choices in phraseology. This indicates that what is actually alleged is that Fox News gave a platform to others to promote these theories — but the hosts themselves were not stating this as a fact. This is significant because in order to prove defamation is taking place you need to show where the channel knowingly delivered falsehoods about Dominion.
You can argue – and there might be some legal repercussions over this – that there is some legal responsibility for granting the Trump team airtime to vent their theories about the voting conspiracy. But they do not show Fox News hosts declaring definitively that Dominion rigged any results.
It will be interesting to see if news outlets try to slam Fox for citing these claims as somehow deceptive reporting because it employs a tactic these same outlets are using today in another storyline. There is a direct parallel between Fox managing to bring up Dominion theories by saying, “The Trump campaign claims…” and the press industry currently lying about Florida’s Parental Rights In Education law by using the dodge “What critics call the Don’t Say ‘Gay’ Bill”.
And there is more hypocritical hostility. It is with copious amounts of amusement that Oliver Darcy writes in smug fashion as if he has Fox News dead to rights, all while his own network is guilty of the very thing he charges. Behold, as Darcy attempts to push the current effort seen in journalism circles to wholly discredit Fox, he is oblivious that he also describes his own base camp in the process.
At its core, Fox News is not a news network. News networks work hard to deliver the truth to their viewers. These documents reveal that Fox News executives and hosts knew the truth and yet they peddled election lies to the audience. And when the handful of hosts and correspondents who have integrity at the channel tried to be honest with viewers, the highest levels of Fox News worked against them.
Be sure to fully absorb that paragraph. Amazingly that entire passage also perfectly describes CNN, as we have just been shown that internal emails at the network revealed former CEO Jeff Zucker had commanded that CNN completely smother any reporting on the Wuhan lab leak theory, on the basis that it was a Donald Trump talking point and he did not want his network aiding the president in any capacity.
It sure sounds like Darcy is bleating loudly about Fox News not working hard on the truth while peddling lies and the network battling against those telling the truth, all in order to distract away from CNN seen to be not working hard on the truth while peddling lies and the network battling against those telling the truth.