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Fallout from Lawsuit: Rupert Murdoch Could Lose Control of Fox

Update, March 5: The exposure of Fox News management and television luminaries expressing opinions among themselves that are the opposite of what they have been telling their viewers ever since the 2020 election has raised the question of whether Rupert Murdoch's control of Fox Corporation could be in jeopardy. Add to that the extremely strong case filed by Dominion Voting article illustration
Fox Corp.'s headquarters on New York's Sixth Avenue displays the network's notables (l. to r.) Dana Perino, Bret Baier (obscured by traffic light), Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity.

Systems and the possibility of a greater than $1 billion jury verdict or settlement against the company and possibly far beyond that in punitive beyond damages.

Murdoch has shown signs of worry. Asked in deposition, "What should the consequences be when Fox News executives knowingly allow lies to be broadcast?", Murdoch replied, "They should be reprimanded …maybe got rid of." It's thought that he is looking for a scapegoat and Suzanne Scott (see article) may be next. Some of Murdoch's answers seek to make him above the fray. He checklisted all on-air commentators as having "endorsed" the claim of a stolen election, but "Not Fox, no. Not Fox". In his deposition:

Q: Is it fair to say you seriously doubted any claim of massive election fraud?
A: Oh yes.
Q: And you seriously doubted it from the very beginning?
A; Yes, I mean, we thought everything was on the up and up. I think that was shown when we announced Arizona.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, professor at Yale School of Management and influential well beyond the New Haven campus, points out that 61% of News Corp. is held by other than Murdoch - "some major institutional investors like Vanguard and others that own large stakes" - and

"I've heard from a number of them and actually I'm familiar with a few of the plaintive law firms that are actually looking into this".

To continue with our original article:

Filings in a Delaware court by Dominion Voting Systems at the end of February laid bare that the full spectrum of principals at Fox News promoted the lie that the 2020 election was stolen while none of them believed it.

Internal communications and depositions by Fox personnel "prove the network knowingly spread falsehoods about Trump's loss in the 2020 U.S. presidential election in order to bolster its ratings", the filings report. The network's on-air personalities amplified false claims that Dominion's machines were rigged to hand the election to Joe Biden. “From the top down, Fox knew ‘the dominion stuff’ was ‘total bs’", quotes one of the filings from “a mountain of direct evidence.”

The motive “is not red or blue,” Rupert Murdoch said. “It is green.” By promulgating Donald Trump's lies about a fraudulent election because it was good for profit, the Australia born and raised media tycoon has shown no qualms about doing the greatest damage to America's democracy since Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s and before that Charles "Father" Coughlin in the 1930s. Millions have been indoctrinated by the lie perpetuated night and day on Fox that has created a ruinous schism among Americans with little sign of annulment.

On election night when News anchor Bret Baier reported on air that "The Fox News Decision Desk is calling Arizona for Joe Biden", the reaction was thunderous. Fox had been preparing its viewers for a Trump win, valid or not. Admitting a Biden win was not supposed to happen. If they told their audience the truth about the election, it could destroy their business model, they believed. Tucker Carlson, the host in the 8:00 pm slot who draws the most viewers, texted his producer Alex Pfeiffer,

“We worked really hard to build what we have. Those f**kers are destroying our credibility. It enrages me.”

There was fear of Trump's reaction. Carlson added that the then-president was good at “destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.” He called Trump "a demonic force, a destroyer" in a January 6 message to Pfeiffer. Murdoch explained at his article illustration
deposition, he did not want to antagonize Trump because "He had a very large following, and they were probably mostly viewers of Fox, so it would have been stupid".

truth unwelcome

Doing her job as a reporter, Fox's Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked a tweet by Donald Trump about Dominion and specifically mentioned Sean Hannity’s and Lou Dobbs’ broadcasts that evening discussing Dominion. She correctly refuted the tweet, that "top election infrastructure officials" said "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." Alarmed at likely viewer reaction to Trump being corrected, Carlson wrote Hannity…

“Please get her fired. Seriously....What the f**k? I’m actually shocked...It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”

Heinrich kept her job, but had to delete the tweet.

When Trump's Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was shown on Neil Cavuto's program intoning,

"We want an honest, accurate, lawful count... We want every legal vote to be counted, and we want every illegal vote to be —"

…Cavuto cut away.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa…She’s charging the other side of welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this."

That did not sit well with management. Raj Shah — a former Trump White House staffer become an executive at Fox Corporation — labeled Cavuto’s action a “Brand Threat.”

the Arizona call

The biggest fear was that the truthful Arizona call had alienated Fox's Trump-loving audience, causing them to switch to upstart rival Newsmax. Fox personnel seemed in something of a panic about a slide in ratings, and therefore revenue. “Everything at stake here,” Murdoch messaged Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott. News president Jay Wallace wrote to Scott,

"The Newsmax surge is a bit troubling—truly is an alternative universe when you watch, but it can’t be ignored…Trying to get everyone to comprehend we are on war footing."

The filings show producers and hosts texting their anguish that the Arizona call had caused viewers to lose trust in the network for not telling them what they wanted to hear. For Scott it was damage to “the brand”. Texting with Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert's son and an executive at Fox, she wrote that Fox’s viewers were going through the “5 stages of grief”. Carlson wrote, “Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience?" for not going along with Trump's stolen election lie. "We’re playing with fire, for real....an alternative like newsmax could be devastating to us.”

It was Fox Political Editor Chris Stirewalt who called Arizona for Biden before the competition did. Trump supporters were furious; Fox subsequently fired him. Managing Editor Bill Sammon, who presided over the Decision Desk, commiserated with Stirewalt, writing “It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things.”

As for Sammon, Scott complained that he did not understand “the impact to the brand and the arrogance in calling AZ.” Murdoch suggested, "Maybe best to let Bill go right away…a big message with Trump people". Sammon had sinned by letting truth escape. Weeks later he retired.

respecting their audience

The network readily gave the microphone to those making inflammatory claims, such as Trump lawyers/advisers Sydney Powell and Rudolph Giuliani. The latter said on Fox Business,

"Machines can be hacked. There's no question about that. Their machines can be hacked."

and on Fox News,

"Not a singular voter fraud in one state; this pattern repeats itself in a number of states".

Neither comment came with any evidence. With the subject "Watching Giuliani", Murdoch texted, "Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear". Scott replied, “Yes Sean and even [Jeanine] Pirro agrees.” Fox reporter Lucas Tomlinson to anchor Bret Baier: “It’s dangerously insane these conspiracy theories.”

This much did the folks at Fox believe the opposite of what they were telling their viewers.

Fox host Dana Perino voiced concern that such claims could draw a lawsuit from Dominion. She called the voter fraud allegations “total bs,” “insane,” and “nonsense”. But Suzanne Scott e-mailed that on-air personalities couldn’t afford to “give the crazies an inch right now … they are looking for and blowing up all appearances of disrespect to the audience.”

Ron Mitchell, the senior vice president for prime-time programming and analytics, theorized that Newsmax’s brand of “conspiratorial reporting might be exactly what the disgruntled [Fox News Channel] viewer is looking for.” He advised that Fox should not “ever give viewers a reason to turn us off. Every topic and guest must perform.”

off the leash

So Sydney Powell was free to tell Fox viewers, unchecked:

article illustration
Maria Bartiromo, Sydney Powell

"We've got evidence of corruption all across the country in countless districts. The machine ran an algorithm that shaved votes from Trump and awarded them to Biden. They used the machines to trash large batches of votes that should have been awarded to president Trump and … to inject and add massive quantities of votes for Mr. Biden.

A lot of the machines, particularly by the Dominion company and in which Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi hold interests along with Mr. [George] Soros has a connection to that as well. They actually have the Chinese software or parts in them."

Fox broadcasted an entire news conference conducted by Powell and Giuliani claiming election fraud.

At a state proceeding in Georgia that December, Giuliani said, "It's a highly inaccurate machine that does cast doubt on the entire legitimacy of the vote…There's overwhelming proof of fraud." Proof was never forthcoming.

The brief said that some of Powell's claims come from an e-mail from a woman who "explained that she gets her information from experiencing something 'like time-travel in a semi-conscious state,' allowing her to 'see what others don't see, and hear what others don't hear,' and she received messages from 'the wind'".

And yet Fox gave Powell repeated air time. Her conspiracy theories went unchallenged when on Bartiromo's show, despite the host privately calling her claims “kooky”.

Carlson told Laura Ingraham, who hosts the 10:00 pm slot. "Sidney Powell is lying by the way. Caught her. It’s insane.” Ingraham, texted back that "Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy". She elsewhere in the brief says, "Rudy is such an idiot". Hannity commented internally, "Rudy is acting like an insane person".

Fox Corp.'s Shah wrote, “s**t is so crazy right now. so many people openly denying the obvious that Powell is clearly full of it.” Alex Pfeiffer replied: “She is a f**king nutcase.”

No matter. An analysis by Ron Mitchell found that “Fox viewers were switching the channel specifically to watch Sidney Powell as a guest” on Newsmax, says the filing. A few nights later, Powell was a guest on Hannity’s 9:00 pm show.

And yet Hannity called Powell a “f**king lunatic”. In deposition he said, "The whole narrative that Sydney was pushing. I did not believe it for one second".

But she was appropriate to the Fox audience, apparently. “Respecting this audience whether we agree or not is critical”, Hannity texted during this period.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, on the board at Fox, was troubled by the misinformation being fed to viewers by what they believe are trusted sources. Responding to a Ryan e-mail, Murdoch wrote, “Thanks Paul. Wake-up call for Hannity, who has been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers." Rupert Murdoch texted Suzanne Scott, “All very well for Sean to tell you he was in despair about Trump but what did he tell his viewers?” The on-air Hannity instead tells his audience,

"Tonight every America should be angry, you should be outraged, you should be worried, you should be concerned at what has happened in the election."

ammunition for dominion

The company can point to defamatory remarks by on-air hosts such as Maria Bartiromo saying to Sidney Powell, "You said that there may have been kickbacks to some people who accepted the Dominion software". Or Jeanine Pirro saying, "The Dominion software system has been tagged as one allegedly capable of flipping votes".

Lou Dobbs welcomed Powell more than once, agreeing with her that “electoral fraud” was perpetrated by electronic voting machines, “prominently Dominion” and said, somewhat unclearly,

"Whether it's Dominion, whatever voting machine company is… no one knows their ownership, has no idea what’s going on in those servers”

and spoke of

"the most ludicrous, irresponsible, and rancid system…this is an assault on the core of a democracy."

"The North Koreans do a more nuanced show," was Fox News President Jay Wallace's reaction.

The MyPillow salesman, Mike Lindell, was given repeated air time. Suzanne Scott told shows to put him on air because he would “get ratings.” He “spouted…conspiracies on air after previewing them for Carlson’s staff — cleared to say them, that is. So we heard the like of,

"I've been all-in trying to find the machine fraud and we found it, we have all the evidence…I have the evidence. I dare people to put it on. I dare Dominion to sue me 'cause then it would get on faster".

Off air Carlson told Pfeiffer that claims about manipulated software were “absurd.”

But MyPillow was Carlson’s biggest advertiser. Dominion’s lawyers asked Murdoch why they gave Lindell this special treatment, and Murdoch testified, “The man is on every night. Pays us a lot of money.” The filings have Murdoch admitting late in January 2021, it was "wrong for Tucker to host Mike Lindell to repeat those allegations against Dominion".

Combing through the Dominion filings one finds Fox News personages calling Trump and his lawyers' election claims: "total BS", "Insane","Crazy","Mind Blowingly nuts", "off the rails", "effing lunatics".

no effect

Will the embarrassment of this exposure cause Fox to change? Not likely. For beginners, none of Fox's audience know of any of this duplicity, of Fox hosts lying to them, unless they stray from Fox. The network has kept on a tight lid. Howard Kurtz, whose Sunday program is about the media, Fox included Fox, was disallowed from covering the Dominion filings. "I can't talk about it", he says.

Simultaneously, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has handed over some 44,000 hours of video footage of the January 6 insurrection to Tucker Carson for his exclusive use. Carlson spent months arguing that there was no insurrection, so we can see what's coming. We can expect him to select for his documentary placid scenes of the crowd taking selfies, staying within the rope lines, gazing at the splendor of Statuary Hall.

 "Anyone who calls Jan. 6 an insurrection is a liar", he said in December, 2021.
 "Of all the things Jan. 6 was, it was not a violent terrorist attack", he said in a September, 2021, show.
 It was "an outbreak of mob violence, a forgettably minor outbreak by recent standards" (150 police officers were injured and several subsequently died).
 "FBI operatives were organizing the attack", he insisted in a June 2021 show.

As we see, the lying continued at Fox.

A fitting coda to this sojourn into the Fox mentality is Carlson's monologue of February 16, 2021:

"All of us lie from time to time. That's the human condition. But imagine if lying was your job. Imagine forcing yourself to tell lies all day about everything in ways that were so transparent and so outlandish that there is no way people listening to you could possible believe anything you said. Then imagine doing that again and again and again every day of your professional life for your entire life. Could you do that?"

No. But he could.

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1 Comment for “Fallout from Lawsuit: Rupert Murdoch Could Lose Control of Fox”

  1. This article is a fraud.
    “Rupert Murdoch Could Lose Control of Fox”
    Did it address “how” or “why” Murdoch Could Lose Control of Fox?
    Instead we had to wade through opinions and the “crime” of pandering to an audience, for “gasp” profits.

    Publish the depositions from the Dominion lawsuit.
    Maybe then we can decide who is telling the truth.

    Publish the “examinations” of the Dominion software.
    Maybe then we can decide who is telling the truth.

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