A judge on Thursday rejected an attempt by Fox News Media to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s coverage of the company’s role in the 2020 presidential election.
In the 52-page ruling, Judge Eric M. Davis of the Superior Court of Delaware, where Fox is incorporated, wrote that he had denied Fox News Media’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit because it was “reasonably conceivable that Dominion has a claim for defamation.”
Dominion, an election technology company, sued Fox News Media in March, accusing it of advancing lies that devastated its reputation and business. More than two dozen states, including several carried by former President Donald J. Trump, made use of Dominion, a Denver company founded in 2002, in last year’s election.
Along with another vote tabulating company, Smartmatic, Dominion was at the center of a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy theory about rigged voting machines that gave the election to President Biden. The false claims were promoted by the president and his advisers, including Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who appeared on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.
In May, Fox filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Dominion’s lawsuit threatened the news media’s First Amendment right to chronicle and assess newsworthy claims.
In his ruling, Judge Davis disputed the arguments put forth by Fox in its motion to dismiss, including that its employees were reporting in a neutral manner on statements made by the then-president’s advisers and that claims made on its channels were opinion, and thus constituted protected speech.
The judge wrote in his order that Fox’s “neutral reportage” and “opinion” arguments did not warrant a dismissal. He added that the Rupert Murdoch-controlled company either “knew its statements about Dominion’s role in election fraud were false” or that it “had a high degree of awareness that the statements were false.”
Judge Davis also noted that Dominion had objected in writing to Fox News Media’s coverage, seemingly to no avail. He wrote that the allegations made by Dominion in its complaint “support the reasonable inference that Fox intended to keep Dominion’s side of the story out of the narrative.”
In a statement on Thursday, a Fox spokeswoman said, “We remain committed to defending against this baseless lawsuit and its all-out assault on the First Amendment.”
Fox faces another high-stakes legal battle over its election coverage because of a defamation lawsuit filed in February by Smartmatic.