Members of Rise and Resist participate in their weekly “Truth Tuesday” protest at News Corp headquarters on February 21, 2023 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Two top Democrats in Congress are calling on Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and the leadership of Fox News “to stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both Democrats from New York, sent a letter this week to Murdoch and Fox News leadership. The letter comes days after further revelations in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp. and its TV networks.
“As noted in your deposition released yesterday Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and other Fox News personalities knowingly, repeatedly, and dangerously endorsed and promoted the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was released Wednesday.
Trump has repeatedly spread false claims that the election was stolen from him. His attempts to pressure a top official in Georgia to “find” votes for him are the subject of a criminal probe in that state, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
Earlier this week, Dominion filed court papers that revealed parts of the testimony from Murdoch and other top Fox Corp. leadership. In his deposition, Murdoch acknowledged that some of Fox’s top TV hosts endorsed false election fraud claims.
When Murdoch was asked if he was “now aware that Fox endorsed at times this false notion of a stolen election,” Murdoch responded, “Not Fox, no. Not Fox. But maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria [Bartiromo] as commentators,” according to court papers.
“Some of our commentators were endorsing it,” Murdoch said in his responses regarding election fraud during the deposition. “They endorsed.” Murdoch and other top Fox executives also remained close to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott during the election coverage, according to the court papers.
A representative for Fox didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Monday, when the court papers were filed, a Fox News representative said in a statement that Dominion mischaracterized the facts by cherry-picking soundbites, “When Dominion is not mischaracterizing the law, it is mischaracterizing the facts.”
Dominion sued the right-wing cable networks, Fox News and Fox Business, and their parent company, arguing the networks and their top anchors made false claims that Dominion’s voting machines rigged the results of the 2020 election. Fox News has consistently denied that it knowingly made false claims about the election.
In court papers filed in February, the parent company said that the past year of discovery has shown Fox Corp. played “no role in the creation and publication of the challenged statements – all of which aired on either Fox Business Network or Fox News Channel.”
Murdoch and his son Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch, in addition to Fox’s chief legal and policy officer, Viet Dinh, and Paul Ryan, the former Republican speaker of the House and a Fox board member, have all been questioned in recent months.
The revelations that have come out in court papers in recent weeks stem from months of discovery and depositions. Top Fox TV personalities, including Carlson and Hannity, also faced questioning.
The faces of Fox News and Fox Business also expressed disbelief in Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump attorney who aggressively promoted claims of election fraud at the time, according to court papers. Ryan said that “these conspiracy theories were baseless,” and that the network “should labor to dispel conspiracy theories if and when they pop up.”
The lawsuit has been closely watched by First Amendment watchdogs and experts. Libel lawsuits typically focus on one falsehood, but in this case Dominion cites a lengthy list of examples of Fox TV hosts making false claims even after they were proven to be untrue. Media companies are often broadly protected by the First Amendment. Fox News has said in earlier statements, “the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech.”
A status conference is slated for next week, while the trial is set to begin in mid-April.
Read the letter below:
Dear Mr. Rupert Murdoch et al:
As noted in your deposition released yesterday Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and other Fox News personalities knowingly, repeatedly, and dangerously endorsed and promoted the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election. Though you have acknowledged your regret in allowing this grave propaganda to take place, your network hosts continue to promote, spew, and perpetuate election conspiracy theories to this day.
The leadership of your company was aware of the dangers of broadcasting these outlandish claims. By your own account, Donald Trump’s election lies were “damaging” and “really crazy stuff.” Despite that shocking admission, Fox News hosts have continued to peddle election denialism to the American people.
This sets a dangerous precedent that ignores basic journalistic fact-checking principles and public accountability. This is even more alarming after Speaker McCarthy is reportedly allowing Tucker Carlson to review highly sensitive security camera footage of the events surrounding the violent January 6 insurrection.
We demand that you direct Tucker Carlson and other hosts on your network to stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior.
As evidenced by the January 6 insurrection, spreading this false propaganda could not only embolden supporters of the Big Lie to engage in further acts of political violence, but also deeply and broadly weakens faith in our democracy and hurts our country in countless other ways.
Fox News executives and all other hosts on your network have a clear choice. You can continue a pattern of lying to your viewers and risking democracy or move beyond this damaging chapter in your company’s history by siding with the truth and reporting the facts. We ask that you make sure Fox News ceases disseminating the Big Lie and other election conspiracy theories on your network.