WASHINGTON (AP) — A judge Thursday rejected a motion by Fox News to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought against the cable news giant by Dominion Voting Systems over claims about the 2020 presidential election.
In the 52-page ruling Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said that the voting machine company had shown that “At this stage, it is reasonably conceivable that Dominion has a claim for defamation per se.”
Denver-based Dominion filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the media organization alleging that some Fox News employees elevated false charges that Dominion had changed votes in the 2020 election through algorithms in its voting machines that had been created in Venezuela to rig elections for the late dictator Hugo Chavez. On-air personalities brought on Trump allies who spread the claims, and then amplified those claims on Fox News' social media platforms.
There was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a fact that a range of election officials across the country — and even Trump’s attorney general, William Barr — confirmed. An Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by former President Donald Trump has found fewer than 475 — a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election.
In denying the motion to dismiss the lawsuit Davis said that Dominion's complaint “supports the reasonable inference that Fox either (i) knew its statements about Dominion’s role in election fraud were false or (ii) had a high degree of awareness that the statements were false.”
Davis said that "Fox possessed countervailing evidence of election fraud from the Department of Justice, election experts, and Dominion at the time it had been making its statements. The fact that, despite this evidence, Fox continued to publish its allegations against Dominion, suggests Fox knew the allegations were probably false."
The judge also wrote that despite emails from Dominion attempting to factually address Fox's fraud allegations, Fox and its news personnel continued to report Dominion's "purported connection to the election fraud claims without also reporting on Dominion’s emails."
"Given that Fox apparently refused to report contrary evidence ... the Complaint’s allegations support the reasonable inference that Fox intended to keep Dominion’s side of the story out of the narrative."
Fox News Media said in a statement that “As we have maintained, Fox News, along with every single news organization across the country, vigorously covered the breaking news surrounding the unprecedented 2020 election, providing full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear-cut analysis. We remain committed to defending against this baseless lawsuit and its all-out assault on the First Amendment.”
Fox News had sought to have the lawsuit dismissed arguing that its coverage is protected by the First Amendment and that a free press must be able to report both sides of a story involving claims that strike at the core of democracy.