Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems settled their case on Tuesday for $787.5 million, abruptly ending one of the most highly anticipated defamation trials in decades before anyone took the stand. “The truth matters,” Dominion attorney Justin Nelson told reporters outside the courtroom. “Lies have consequences.”
Opening arguments were supposed to begin around 1:30 in the afternoon, after the court took a lunch break. But roughly an hour later, proceedings had yet to resume. “All lawyers appear to be in their seats, but the judge and jury are not seated. Still no updates on why we’re delayed,” tweeted The Guardian’s Kira Lerner, reporting from Wilmington, Delaware. “The scene in the courtroom: It is sweltering, everyone is up from their seats, going in and out of the room. Fox’s lead lawyer, Dan Webb, has taken several phone calls. Some people are standing, all are talking, others gesticulating,” the Times’ Jim Rutenberg reported. Then one hour became two, and just before 4:00, Judge Eric Davis, took the bench and brought the jurors back in the room. “The parties have resolved the case,” he said.
The end of the Fox-Dominion standoff comes as swaths of reporters had descended this week upon Wilmington, Delaware, and various outlets—including this one—prepared special coverage for what was expected to be a six-week-long trial. Top Fox figures like hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, as well as Fox Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch himself, were expected to take the stand, but no longer.
“Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company, our employees, and the customers that we serve,” CEO John Poulos said at the presser outside the courtroom. “Nothing can ever make up for that. Throughout this process, we have sought accountability, and believe the evidence brought to light through this case underscores the consequences of spreading lies. Truthful reporting in the media is essential to our democracy.”
“We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” Fox said in a statement. “This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
Dominion has been steeped in a legal fight with Fox since 2021, when the election-technology company sued the network for $1.6 billion over its 2020 election coverage. Dominion claimed the network amplified election lies pushed by Donald Trump and his allies and knowingly promoted false claims about the company’s role in the election for the sake of juicing ratings and profit. Fox argued its coverage was protected by free speech and press freedom rights, and that it was neutrally reporting on newsworthy claims by a sitting president. (It should be noted that Judge Davis, the Delaware Superior Court judge who was presiding over the case, ruled last week that Fox News could not argue that it broadcast false information about Dominion on the basis of newsworthiness. “Just because someone is newsworthy doesn’t mean you can defame someone,” said Davis.)
While the settlement means there will be no such spectacle, the discovery process leading up to this moment has already provided an unprecedented look inside Fox News. Through a deluge of internal communications and private text messages Dominion unveiled during the pretrial process, the public got to see top executives, producers, and stars mocking the unfounded claims and unreliable sources in Trumpworld. “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” Carlson told host Laura Ingraham of the conspiracy-peddling Trump lawyer. “Our viewers are good people and they believe it.” In another filing released as part of the suit, Murdoch is seen admitting that hosts Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs “endorsed” Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” Murdoch said at one point in his deposition.
Davis appeared to repeatedly clash with Fox during the pretrial hearings. At one point last week he told a Fox News attorney that his team had a “credibility problem” upon learning that Fox has delayed the disclosure of Murdoch’s full role at Fox News, a technicality that prevented Dominion from getting access to documents they otherwise would have during the discovery process. It was also during the pretrial hearings that Davis sanctioned Fox News for withholding evidence. Dominion lawyers asserted they’d found out about other documents and material that they should have received during discovery but didn’t. The judge said he would likely start an investigation into the matter.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated with additional developments.