As all who care are aware, yesterday Dominion Voting Systems (Dominion) and Fox Corp. (Fox) settled the defamation suit Dominion had brought against Fox arising from Fox’ falsehoods about Dominion’s voting systems, with Fox paying Dominion $787.5 million. Fox released a statement indicating: “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. 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.”
I have been a lawyer too long not to recognize that a good deal for a client is not always a good deal for society, so I certainly don’t begrudge Dominion locking in an almost record-breaking defamation settlement award, or choosing to avoid the uncertainties of trial and, if victorious, the grueling prospect of lengthy appeals against a well-funded and implacable opponent. At the same time, I am offended by the blasé hypocrisy of the Fox statement. I’ve seen one of Dominion’s lawyers acknowledge that Fox is not obligated by the terms of the settlement to have its hosts admit on their air that they lied about Dominion, which lies had the effect of furthering the hoax that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election and arguably at least indirectly led to the January 6th insurrection. A First Amendment lawyer quoted by the New York Times observed: “With the settlement, everybody wins. Fox goes its way. Dominion gets cash.”
Not everybody wins. America didn’t win. I had hoped that the settlement would require the Fox hosts to acknowledge their falsehoods on Fox air, which, even if such did not dispel the Big Lie, would perhaps at least weaken their future credibility with their viewers. That’s not going to happen. I fear that the confirmation of Fox’ perfidy won’t even meaningfully enter the alt-right information silo. I expect one close friend who follows these pages and is more familiar with Fox propaganda than I am will provide me backhanded consolation by repeating his oft-expressed observation to the effect that even if Fox viewers knew Fox hosts were lying to them, they wouldn’t care.
On that note, I guess we must, like Fox, go on our way.