Category Archives: Reporting

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 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.

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GameStop – The Casino at Broad and Wall

I thought it was a very strange story. “Analysts confounded by GameStop price moves” read the headline in the business section of one of the world’s most widely read newspapers. “Recent volatility in the stock of GameStop has confused analysts following the video game retailor” read the lede line.

That there had been great volatility in the price of a share of GameStop was not debatable. The stock was trading below $20 a share at the end of 2020. On January 29, 2021 it hit $325. That’s a jump of 1,625%. If you had bought 100 shares on December 31, you would have paid $2,000. On January 29, one month later, your 100 shares would have been worth $32,500. If you think you understand the stock market that is a mindboggling increase. Certainly one to “confound” and “confuse.” But as your intrepid reporter wrote in my primer for the National Center for Business Journalism, stock markets are not what they used to be.

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The Justices Take a Landmark Step. Unwillingly.

Mark your calendar. Beginning May 4 and ending May 13, the Supreme Court of the United States will make history. It took the coronavirus pandemic to do it, but over six dates the Court will hear oral arguments on ten cases, and the people of the United States will be able for the first time to hear those arguments as they happen.

This is happening because the Court, like most of us, is practicing Covid-19 social distancing protocols, with the justices and staff working mostly from their homes. The Court first delayed these arguments, then decided to hold the hearings via teleconference.

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Jim Lehrer and the Future of News

Jim Lehrer - PBS NewsHour

Jim Lehrer, co-founder and for 36 years the anchor of the PBS NewsHour, died Thursday at the age of 85. He was also the executive editor of the broadcast, moderated 12 presidential debates, and wrote books of fiction and non-fiction, often on topics informed by his interest in journalism, politics and history. The NewsHour remembered and eulogized him on the program that night.

I cannot come close to the heartfelt feelings expressed by his NewsHour colleagues and I highly recommend the program to you. Although I worked for nearly three decades for the public television program Nightly Business Report, public television is about as siloed a group as you will find and I had the pleasure of meeting Lehrer only once. I do remember being tongue tied at meeting the man who is now being mourned as a “giant in journalism.” He of course was friendly and unassuming with me.

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