News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch said under oath that several Fox News hosts touted false conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, according to court documents released Monday.
Murdoch made the statements as part of an ongoing $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems. The company sued the news giant in 2021 after several hosts promoted wild and unfounded claims that its voting machines were used to deny Trump the election, including lies that the devices could be rigged to switch votes for one candidate to another.
There is no evidence to support those claims. Trump lost the election to President Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes.
When pressed by Dominion lawyers during a deposition last month, Murdoch said Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro all endorsed the notion that the election was stolen.
“Yes,” Murdoch said in his deposition, “They endorsed.”
He stressed that the false statements came from the hosts, but did not say that Fox as an entity endorsed those statements. Still, the revelations will likely bolster Dominion’s evidence as it seeks to recover vast damages it says it suffered after the attacks.
“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” Murdoch added about the false election claims.
Fox defended itself in a fiery statement after the deposition was released.
“Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims,” a company spokesperson said.
Dominion maintained it would continue with the suit on Monday.
“The damages claim remains,” a company spokesperson said. “As Fox well knows, our damages exceed $1.6 bil.”
The New York Times reported the latest court filing by Dominion’s lawyers also included a plea from former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan said under oath that he reached out to Murdoch and his son, Lachlan Murdoch, that Fox “should not be spreading conspiracy theories” and should “move on from Donald Trump.”
A separate legal filing earlier this month revealed a slate of text messages between key Fox News hosts and network executives. The missives repeatedly bashed two key architects of the election lie conspiracy — Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani — and expressed concern with Trump’s falsehoods about his loss.
Fox attorneys have maintained the hosts’ comments are protected under the First Amendment, arguing coverage of Trump and his conspiracies was newsworthy.
“A reasonable viewer would have readily understood that hosts were not espousing the President’s allegations themselves, but were providing a forum for the principal architects of those legal challenges,” the company’s lawyers said in a brief this month.