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Fox Settles

It would have been glorious. Can’t you just imagine the theater? Picture the big mouths of the Fox empire on the witness stand, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rupert Murdoch and the lessor lights being cross examined. Answering questions from lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems. Knowing that the judge had already determined that the Fox personalities had lied about Dominion. Knowing that emails they and other Fox employees wrote, released to the public in various pre-trial motions, showed that the Fox operation was anything but a traditional news organization with a goal of informing the public as to the truth of events. Rather, the evidence demonstrated that the self-named “Fox News Channel” is a sham, pursuing ratings and the loyalty of its right-wing audience at the expense of all else.

We’ve seen plenty. But we will be denied seeing the next act of this long running drama. Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for pushing false accusations that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election. The trial was set to last six weeks. But just after the swearing in of the 12-person jury in the Wilmington, Delaware courtroom, before the lawyers could make their opening statements, Judge Eric Davis announced a settlement had been reached.

Lawyers for Dominion say the settlement calls for Fox to pay them $787.5 million. Following the announcement of the settlement, Dominion’s CEO John Poulos talked to reporters outside the courthouse, “The truth matters. Lies have consequences,” he said. And added that “Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion”.

The settlement amounts to about one-third of Fox’s net income in 2021. About one-quarter of its cash on hand.

Dominion has also sued Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell for making false accusations of election fraud that defamed the company after the 2020 election. Both of those lawsuits are ongoing.

Three quarters of a billion dollars is a lot of money for many people. But not to Fox. One might hope the settlement sends a message to the company about truthfulness, integrity, and the significant role journalists should play in our society. But I don’t think for a minute Fox will get that message. I think the powers that are inside Fox will just take this outcome, expensive though it might be, and use it to calculate the cost of business going forward. If lies will be profitable in the future, then lie they will.

Fox didn’t face the cameras in Delaware. It did issue a statement:

“We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. 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. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”

Fox News Release

The acknowledgement that the court found it made false statements strikes me as well short of an admission. And it’s certainly not an apology. The statement about “FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards” is enough to make one choke. In reading the statement, CNN’s Jake Tapper almost did, saying, it’s “Difficult to say with a straight face.”

Without a trial, we’ll never see Murdock, Carlson, and Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and their producers and writers confronted with emails they wrote which conflict with statements they were making on the air. That could be considered the actual malice Dominion would most likely have to prove at trial.

And it appears none of these highly paid superstar liars will have to say one word on air to the people in the audience they deceived. That audience, not the brightest by any means, will be none for the wiser. Six hours after the settlement was announced, the story was prominently featured on most web sites. Even Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. It was buried at the bottom on the Fox page.

A trial would have shown the public, at least those interested in paying attention, how badly they had been deceived. Perhaps it is dreaming on my part, but I hoped a trial would change the minds of a few of the many people who believe what they hear on Fox. That opportunity is now lost. And we shall be the poorer for it.



The headlines say it all. Donald J. Trump, the first American President to be impeached twice while in office, is about to be the first ex-President indicted for a criminal offense after leaving office.

The impending event has seen the chattering heads of cable television and social media wagging with speculation ever since the news, quoting “sources,” broke last Thursday. Trump and his lawyers confirmed the news Friday, announcing that the Donald would travel to New York on Monday and would report to court on Tuesday for his formal charging and arraignment.

As is tradition in New York, the grand jury’s formal accusation is under seal until the arraignment and the district attorney has said nothing, meaning all comment is made in the absence of any factual knowledge of the sum and substance of the charges. That hasn’t stopped the speculation. Nor has it stopped the clear calls for protest demonstrations, bordering on violence, coming from Trump and his acolytes. The New York Police Department is on full alert.

Much of what Trump’s fellow Republicans have argued in recent days amounts to total nonsense. The one factual observation is that this will be the first time a former president is charged with a crime. Trump’s apologists see that fact as evidence the indictment is ill advised. My first reaction was to observe that the fact this is a historic first simply means never in American history have we had a president who is so despotic, so blatantly criminal in his activities that it would be a grave dereliction of duty for the grand jury not to indict him.

But on further reflection I have come to realize we have been here before. Or, rather, one out of three of us has been here before. I was surprised to discover that only one-third of the U.S. population is old enough to have been around during the Watergate scandal which ended with the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Nixon is the only American president to have resigned his office.

Nixon had won reelection to a second term as president by an overwhelming margin. During the campaign, in June 1972, there was a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquaters in the Watergate apartment and office complex in Washington. It is from that event that the scandal takes its name. While the break-in had little effect on the election, details revealed over the next two years traced the planning for the break-in and a subsequent cover-up to the highest levels of the Nixon administration and to the president himself.

With the Justice Department and the FBI implicated, a special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, Jr. was appointed. Cox soon uncovered widespread evidence of political espionage, illegal wiretaps, and influence peddling. In July 1973 it was revealed that Nixon had secretly recorded conversations in the White House since 1971. Cox sued to obtain the tapes.

On October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson to fire the special prosecutor. Richardson refused and resigned; his assistant, William Ruckelshaus, refused and was fired. Finally, Solicitor General Robert Bork fired Cox. This became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.” It led to calls for Nixon’s impeachment, and the House of Representatives began an impeachment investigation.

I was a graduate student studying journalism on the night of the massacre. It is difficult to explain to those who were not alive at that time the emotions felt throughout the nation. I wondered if the country could survive the crisis. The impact of Watergate was so great for decades scandals were named by tacking the suffix “-gate” to a defining word.

Which explains my headline above, “Stormygate” for the current crisis, where Trump stands on the brink of being charged for his role in the payment of money to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, an adult movie performer with whom he apparently had a sexual relationship, in the middle of his 2016 campaign for president.

Nixon resigned before the House of Representatives voted on his impeachment. Many leaders of the Republican party spoke out against him and encouraged his resignation.

There remained the question of whether Nixon should face criminal charges. The special Watergate grand jury, it was later reported, had named Nixon an “unindicted co-conspirator” because the Justice Department said they could not indict a sitting president. That remains a DoJ “policy”, not a court tested rule or law. Explaining that he believed the nation should be saved the turmoil and uncertainty of a trial for the former president, President Gerald Ford issued Nixon a full and unconditional pardon.

For decades I have thought this was a wise move, helping the nation move on, giving it time to heal. Now, faced with the questions of Donald Trump’s guilt or innocence at a time when great turmoil and divisiveness surrounds us, I’m no longer sure. If Richard Nixon had faced a jury, we would have had some clarity on the uncharted waters we now face.

Stay tuned.


A Grammar Lesson

There are scores of serious, issue-oriented problems I have with today’s Republican Party. I would love an opportunity to engage their leaders in serious debate. But the first problem I face is that it is not clear who those leaders are. And the loudest people who run for election under the Republican banner seem to have little or no interest in debating anything.

This is evident from the moment most of the Republicans open their mouths and complaint about the “Democrat party” or a “Democrat position.” It is not the “Democrat Party” it is the “Democratic Party” and their purposeful error of grammar reeks of the playground name calling I remember so well from my childhood. There is nothing cute about being called childhood names. Gravy, groovy, garbage, I heard them all.

While that sort of nonsense ended after grade school, my reaction then is the same reaction I have now when I hear Republicans smirk their little semantic game. Summoning my best Soupy Sales or Three Stooges, I dream of pushing their collective faces into a whipped cream pie.

Luckily for me there are smarter and cooler heads who prevail. One is Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who you may recall led the prosecution for the House in Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. He did so with great grace and skill. And he did it just days after tragically losing his son.

On March 1, 2023, Raskin gave his House GOP colleagues a grammar lesson on the difference between Democrat and Democratic. He was responding to Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who had accused him of trying to censor conservatives by introducing a bill to combat disinformation. Boebert repeatedly used the term “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party”, which is considered disrespectful and inaccurate by many Democrats².

Raskin explained that Democrat is a noun, while Democratic is an adjective. He said that using Democrat as an adjective is grammatically incorrect and politically offensive. He also pointed out that his bill was not about censorship, but about accountability and transparency for online platforms that spread false or misleading information.

Check out the video:

Raskin’s grammar lesson was not only a clever way of correcting Boebert’s mistake, but also a subtle reminder of his party’s values and principles. By emphasizing the word Democratic, he implied that his party stands for democracy, while Boebert’s party does not. He also showed his respect for language and truth, while Boebert showed her disregard for both.

Raskin’s grammar lesson was a rhetorical device that served multiple purposes: it educated his colleagues, and the public who saw the video played on almost every major newscast the next day, on proper grammar usage; it defended his bill against Boebert’s attacks; and it highlighted the contrast between his party and hers. It was an example of how language can be used as a tool for persuasion and argumentation in politics.

The Republican response was predictable. Many made fun of the scarf on Raskin’s head. A typical insensitive unserious dig at a man suffering the side effects of chemotherapy to treat cancer.

“Chemo causes hair loss, tenderness to the scalp, and many times sores,” one Twitter user wrote. “A head scarf protects the regulation of body temperature that is effected by chemo, and protects the scalp. Please be kind to chemo patients, they are fighting for their life.” In fact, this is Raskin’s second battle with cancer, after he overcame colon cancer in 2011.

I was pleased to learn there are some Twitter users who have more class than members of the Republican party.


The Fox Lies Channel

Here’s a shocker. The people on the Fox News Channel lie. They knowingly lie. They lie all the time. Anyone with the common sense to distinguish between fact and fiction has known this for a long time. But the facts were never so clear as they are in a recent court filing by Dominion Voting Systems.

Here are the basic facts:

  • Dominion Voting Systems is suing Fox News for $1.6 billion for spreading false claims that Dominion rigged the 2020 presidential election.
  • A new court filing shows that Fox anchors and executives privately ridiculed former President Trump’s lies about the election even while promoting them on air.
  • The filing also reveals that Fox ignored warnings from its own staff, experts, and lawyers that the claims were baseless and harmful.
  • The filing includes internal emails, text messages, and transcripts that show how Fox hosts and guests knowingly spread misinformation to boost ratings and appease Trump.

Dominion Voting Systems is a company that sells electronic voting hardware and software. Dominion claims that Fox’s false accusations caused irreparable harm to its reputation, business, and employees, and endangered the lives of its workers and election officials.

Fox News has denied the allegations and moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it was exercising its First Amendment rights to report on matters of public concern.

Fox has also claimed its evening anchors, the ones with the biggest audience in all of cable television and the most vocal when it comes to spreading outright lies about the political opponents they tend to demonize (my opinion here), are not news reporters but opinion writers. Fox has even gone too far as to take in court the position that no one could view the words of, for example, Tucker Carlson, as factual.

The problems here are multiple. First, opinion columns make arguments based on a foundation of fact. They may take liberties in interpretation. They may be selective when it comes to which facts are included and which are ignored. But they still have a responsibility to the truth and can face the consequences if they do not.

Fox also has cultivated an image that it is a purveyor of news when it has been obvious from day one that it has taken it as its mission to promote right wing thought to such an extent that its coverage at all times of the day is informed by that institutional goal. The “Fox News” logo appears on the screen during what Fox calls its “opinion” parts just as it does during its “news” parts. The original Fox slogans, “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide” clearly assert that Fox presents reality others do not.

This is (my opinion again) a bit of chicanery that makes a mockery of journalism. It also makes (yep, my opinion) Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and his lackies public enemy number one.

Still Dominion faces an uphill battle in its defamation lawsuit. The bar is set extremely high, especially when matters of public interest are debated. The framers of the Constitution wrote the First Amendment with a specific intent to protect the kind of political speech that would get a commentator’s head chopped off if it were directed against, for example, the king in a European monarchy.

Dominion must prove Fox willfully made assertions it knew to be false, that it did so with malice, and that as a result, damage was done.

Take the time. Read the material firsthand. You decide.

You can find the full court document here:

Fox lost its motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The trial is scheduled to begin on April 4, 2023.

Cartoon by Kevin KAL Kallaugher for Counterpoint


The Hypocracy Committee

Kevin McCarthy was so desperate to become Speaker of the House of Representatives he not only gave Jim Jordan chairmanship of the judiciary committee and membership on the oversite committee, he also created a special sub-committee, on the so-called “weaponization” of the federal government for Jordan to run.

This gives Jordan the power, among others, to hire dozens of staff members, paid for by we the taxpayers, to dig up dirt and blast away at President Joe Biden and Democrats.

Read more

The GOP Clown Show

It is said that insanity is repeating the same action over and over expecting to get a different outcome. At least we have a name to put on the Republican clown show on full exhibit in the House of Representatives.

With the entire world watching Republicans, who hold a narrow majority in the House, have failed to muster a majority in the vote for Speaker, the powerful leadership position vacated by Democrat Nancy Pelosi following her party’s loss in the last election.

Read more

Our House is a Mess

For the first time in one hundred years, the House of Representatives could not elect a Speaker on the first ballot.

As the 118th Congress convenes, the first order of House business is the election of a new speaker — and current Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California is being stymied by a group of GOP hardliners demanding concessions.

To win the gavel, McCarthy needs a majority of the members-elect who are present and voting. But because the GOP holds only a five-seat advantage, a small number of defections is so far stopping McCarthy from gaining the office he’s long sought. In fact, on the first two ballots McCarthy lost his caucus by nineteen votes. That grew to twenty votes on the third ballot. The Democrats were united through it all, supporting minority leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York with their 212 votes.

The House can conduct no other business until a speaker is chosen. For the first time in a century, the vote is requiring multiple rounds.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Republicans are too divided to govern, The Democrats are too stupid to get elected.

Updates as appropriate.


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