Fox News settled a bombshell defamation suit stemming from the 2020 election by paying Dominion Voting Systems nearly $800 million just hours after the the beginning of a trial that would have seen some of the cable news behemoth’s biggest stars take the witness stand.
The dramatic settlement also spared Fox News’ 92-year-old founder, Rupert Murdoch, from testifying. The deal in the Wilmington, Delaware, case came in the early afternoon, following the earlier selection of 12 jurors and a dozen alternates.
“The case has been resolved, and it’s been resolved because of you,” state Superior Court Judge Eric Davis told jurors.
A Fox News spokesperson confirmed the settlement had been reached.
“We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems,” the spokesperson said. “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.”
Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson stated immediately after the deal that “we wish to express our deepest appreciation” to the court, and said the settlement was for just over $787 million.
Dominion sued Fox and its parent company Fox Corporation, claiming it knowingly spread false claims about its vote-counting equipment following the 2020 election. Fox guests and allegedly some hosts claimed Dominion had paid government bribes, switched votes, and was founded in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chávez.
BREAKING: Fox News has abruptly settled the defamation case brought by Dominion, after a trial jury was selected and lawyers waited in the courtroom to give their openings
— Katie Robertson (@katie_robertson) April 18, 2023
“In the coming weeks, we will prove Fox spread lies causing enormous damage to Dominion,” a Dominion spokesperson said in a statement the morning of the trial. “We look forward to trial.”
The trial was not to be televised, but likely would have seen some of the network’s biggest stars take the stand in addition to Murdoch and his son, Lachlan Murdoch. Prime-time hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity were expected to testify, as well as Fox Business Network Maria Bartiromo and onetime weekend host Jeanine Pirro.
Dominion was prepared to show the jury internal messages from Fox hosts and executives in which they appeared to express knowledge that the claims about Dominion were false. The case could have had major implications for the media, as the landmark 1964 U.S. Supreme Court case Times v. Sullivan held that a news organization must be shown to have acted with actual malice to be found guilty of defamation.