Email from Fox News producer on Pirro surfaces in Dominion libel lawsuit: NPR



RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the weeks following the 2020 election, Fox News aired lies from allies of then-President Donald Trump that Dominion Voting Systems had committed fraud to help Joe Biden win. The company sued Fox News and its parent company for defamation. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik covered these cases and joins us now for an update. Hi David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hello, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let’s start – if you could, briefly remind us of the allegations at the center of this case.

FOLKENFLIK: Dominion alleges that their company suffered irreparable financial harm and, in fact, some of their employees were not only harassed but received death threats because of the rhetoric about Fox, and that it was lies — that then-President Donald Trump’s allies were alleging Dominion was involved in some sort of wholesale voter fraud to shift Trump’s votes to Biden or not count Trump’s votes. And not only did the Fox News hosts have these guests — people like President Trump’s campaign lawyers at the time — but they also amplified those claims and endorsed them. Fox says, listen, we’re covering newsworthy allegations from obviously newsworthy people, like the then-president of the United States at the time of a national election. Of course, we have to hold these things.

MARTIN: Okay, that’s the context. What’s going on in the case right now?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you see Dominion lawyers coming up through the ranks at Fox, questioning producers, programming heads, but also the biggest stars about what they said, what they did, what they knew – people like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity. Maria Bartiromo is due to file in the next few days – Lou Dobbs, who was kicked off the network at the end of 2020. And there are also disputes over what they have already found because they have gotten tons of emails and Messages and texts WhatsApp and others. For example, one I heard about from two people we spoke to, a producer begged his colleagues to keep Fox News host Jeanine Pirro off the air because she was just going to spew conspiracy theories she got from the internet about it.

MARTIN: Alright. The depositions are progressing. I mean, it’s a contentious case. Does it look like ultimately it will end up in a courtroom?

FOLKENFLIK: At the moment, it seems that any idea of ​​a settlement is highly unlikely. A judge, at the very end, could always decide that there isn’t enough to go to court, but it looks like it’s headed that way. Fox hired Dan Webb — he’s one of the nation’s leading trial attorneys — to defend him. And therefore, he anticipates a court case. And you also see Dominion targeting the family that controls Fox News and Fox Corp, and that’s the Murdochs. The Murdochs don’t like to apologize, I should note. And in that case, if he did so as part of a settlement, it could alienate millions of Trump fans who are also Fox viewers, because it would be tantamount to saying there was no basis to the conspiracies they reported.

MARTIN: Put that into context for us, David — the greater significance of this particular legal battle, nearly two years after this election.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you see a question about the limits of free speech and who is responsible for inflammatory political rhetoric. But you also see – this is a pivotal time, right between the election and the lies about alleged voter fraud in the 2020 race, leading of course to the siege – the murderous and bloody siege of Congress in January 6, 2021, which was also fueled by a lot of the rhetoric we heard at Fox News. Dominion connects these two events and demands accountability from the court.

MARTIN: NPR correspondent David Folkenflik, thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

Copyright © 2022 NRP. All rights reserved. Visit the Terms of Use and Permissions pages of our website at www.npr.org for more information.

NPR transcripts are created in peak time by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of NPR’s programming is the audio recording.