Dominion lawsuit claims Fox News viewers thought Trump loss bad for ratings

Dominion lawsuit claims Fox News viewers thought Trump loss bad for ratings

That worry — a real one, judging by Fox’s post-election memos — played a key role in Fox not setting the record straight on unfounded fraud allegations, claims the accuser of the network.

“It’s remarkable how low ratings cause good reporters to do bad things,” said Bill Sammon, Fox Washington’s chief information officer.

The details were included in a trove of private communications uncovered by attorneys and contained in a redacted brief filed Thursday by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion claims in $1.6 billion lawsuit that Fox aired allegations that Dominion rigged the vote against Trump, even though it knew it was untrue. Fox says he was doing his job as a reporter by airing the accusations made by Trump and his allies.

Fox’s internal problems began with a correct call: Declaring on election night 2020 that Democrat Joe Biden had defeated Trump in Arizona. The statement, ahead of other news outlets, infuriated the president and his fans.

The backlash was noted in internal emails. “Holy cow, our audience is mad at the network,” one said, as quoted by Dominion. “They are FURIOUS,” said another.

Five days after the election, Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch informed Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott that the channel was “getting crushed by CNN. Guess our viewers don’t want to watch it,” according to court documents.

Fox News rose from first to third in the news network rankings between the Nov. 3, 2020 election and Biden’s Jan. 20, 2021 inauguration, according to the Nielsen Company. Meanwhile, thousands of Fox viewers flocked to the more conservative Newsmaxwhere the number of prime-time viewers rose from 58,000 the week before the election to 568,000 the week after.

The change shook the foundations of a network that had consistently topped the ratings for the better part of two decades.

Fox returned to the lead by swinging more sharply to the right after Biden took office. But in the aftermath of the election, there was genuine concern at its New York headquarters.

Almost immediately, the network went on a “war footing,” Dominion said, quoting a Fox executive.

“Do leaders understand the credibility and trust we have lost with our audience? Fox primetime star Tucker Carlson wrote to his producer, according to the Dominion filing. “We are playing with fire, for real… an alternative like newsmax could be devastating for us.”

Dominion argues Fox executives made the decision to push false narratives to appeal to their audiences, and points to claims made by Trump allies like attorney Sidney Powell on programs hosted by Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs.

On Nov. 9, Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto interrupted a press conference held by Trump aide Kayleigh McEnaney when she began airing unsubstantiated allegations. A Fox executive later complained that Cavuto was infringing on the network’s trademark.

The court documents also detailed two instances where Fox News reporters were internally attacked for tweeting fact checks. In one, journalist Jacqui Heinrich tweeted that there was no evidence that a voting system removed, lost or altered votes.

“Please get her fired,” Carlson emailed co-worker Sean Hannity, claiming Heinrich was hurting the company, according to the Dominion filing. Heinrich’s tweet was later deleted, according to court documents.

Carlson himself tried to “thread the needle,” Dominion said. He noted how he publicly stated that Powell had never provided evidence to support his allegations of fraud. “On the other hand, he didn’t say what he believed in private — that she was lying,” Dominion said.

Fox said many of his specific responses would come in a document that Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ordered sealed until Feb. 27.

“There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the heart of this matter remains freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights granted by the Constitution. and protected by New York. Times versus Sullivan,” Fox said.

If either party can persuade Davis to grant summary judgment in his favor, the case will end without a jury trial. Otherwise, the trial is expected to begin in mid-April.

Following Sullivan and subsequent cases, such libel cases against journalists are generally very difficult to prove, and Fox also argues that Dominion grossly overestimates any economic harm to the company.

Ultimately, however, the case pulls back the curtain on what transpired in the nation’s biggest news outlet that draws conservative viewers at a pivotal moment in the channel and in the nation’s history.

“Privately, Fox hosts and executives knew that Donald Trump had lost the election and had to concede,” Dominion explained in newspapers published Thursday. “But Fox viewers heard a different story – over and over.”

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