Protestors outside Fox News, which is being sued for $1.6 billion by Dominion Voting Systems – Copyright AFP/File Evaristo SA
A defamation trial related to falsehoods about the 2020 US presidential election aired on Fox News was delayed Monday as the network reportedly sought to settle with vote machine maker Dominion.
Delaware judge Eric Davis announced that the start of proceedings in the highly anticipated civil case would be pushed back by a day to Tuesday.
He gave no reason for the postponement but the Wall Street Journal — owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News — reported that the conservative channel is exploring ways to settle the case.
A settlement would mean 92-year-old Murdoch and star anchors, such as Tucker Carlson, would avoid having to testify in court.
A spokesperson for Fox did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for $1.6 billion in March 2021.
It alleges that the news behemoth promoted Donald Trump’s false claims that its machines were used to rig the 2020 presidential election that he lost to Joe Biden.
The company argues that Fox News aired the falsehoods while knowing they were untrue.
Dominion says that the network began endorsing Trump’s conspiracy narrative because the channel was losing its audience after it became the first television outlet to call Arizona for Biden, projecting the Democrat would win the presidency.
Fox News denies committing defamation. It claims it was only reporting on Trump’s allegations, not supporting them, and is protected by free speech rights enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
It is difficult for plaintiffs to win defamation suits in the United States due to the First Amendment. A trial would test the extent of free speech rights for media in America — even when broadcasting election falsehoods.
In pre-trial hearings, Davis ruled that there was no question Fox aired false statements about Dominion.
For Dominion to win however, it would have to prove that Fox News acted with actual malice, a tough burden to meet that has been a bedrock of US media law since 1964.
Dominion’s lawsuit has already proved embarrassing to Fox.
Murdoch admitted in a deposition in the case that some on-air hosts had “endorsed” the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
But he denied that the network in its entirety had pushed the baseless claim, according to court documents filed by Dominion in February.
Dominion’s lawyers also released a trove of internal Fox News communications in which some commentators expressed a dislike of Trump, despite praising him on air.
Fox News has accused Dominion of “cherry-picking and taking quotes out of context.”