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Defamation suit about election falsehoods puts Fox on its heels

Aug. 13, 2022 Updated Sat., Aug. 13, 2022 at 5:10 p.m.

By Jeremy W. Peters New York Times

In the weeks after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed to have “tremendous evidence” that voter fraud was to blame. That evidence never emerged, but a new culprit in a supposed scheme to rig the election did: Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election technology whose algorithms, Dobbs said, “were designed to be inaccurate.”

Maria Bartiromo, another host on the network, falsely stated that “Nancy Pelosi has an interest in this company.” Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News personality, speculated that “technical glitches” in Dominion’s software “could have affected thousands of absentee mail-in ballots.”

Those unfounded accusations are now among the dozens cited in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp., which alleges that Fox repeatedly aired false, far-fetched and exaggerated allegations about Dominion and its purported role in a plot to steal votes from Trump.

Those bogus assertions, made day after day, are at the center of the libel suit, one of the most extraordinary brought against a U.S. media company in more than a generation.

Dominion’s $1.6 billion case against Fox has been steadily progressing in Delaware state court this summer, inching ever closer to trial. There have been no moves from either side toward a settlement, according to interviews with several people involved in the case. The two companies are deep into document discovery, combing through years of each other’s emails and text messages, and taking depositions.

These people said they expected Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, who own and control Fox Corp., to sit for depositions as soon as this month.

The case has caused palpable unease at the Fox News Channel, said several people there, who would speak only anonymously. Anchors and executives have been preparing for depositions and have been forced to hand over months of private emails and text messages to Dominion, which is hoping to prove that network employees knew that wild accusations of ballot rigging in the 2020 election were false. Hosts Steve Doocy, Dana Perino and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox personalities who either have been deposed or will be this month.

This summer, Fox replaced its outside legal team on the case and hired one of the country’s most prominent trial lawyers — a sign that executives believe that the chances the case is headed to trial have increased.

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