By Lexi Meola
Outgoing Web and Social Media Editor
Following the contentious 2020 presidential election, Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for defamation. According to NBC News, “Dominion was the subject of conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential race as then-President Donald Trump and his allies relentlessly pushed the lie that the election, which he legitimately lost to President Joe Biden, was stolen from him.”
Fox News is not the only part of the company involved in the lawsuit. “Dominion is suing Fox News Networks — which includes the namesake network and Fox Business — and Fox Corp., the more moneyed parent company,” NBC News said.
Fox said that press freedoms given by the first amendment of the United States allowed them to report these “extraordinary claims of election fraud by Trump.” They also said that Dominion’s actual business was not damaged by this reporting.
A Fox News spokesperson said in a statement, “Dominion’s lawsuit is a political crusade in search of a financial windfall, but the real cost would be cherished First Amendment rights.”
According to Politico, Judge Eric Davis, who is presiding on the case, said, “It is ‘CRYSTAL clear’ that Fox aired false statements about the voting company after the 2020 election.”
The judge decided to bring this case to court so a jury could decide the $1.6-billion dollar defamation case. The court went through jury selection and had started its first day of trial when the shocking news came through.
According to CNN Business, “Fox News will pay more than $787 million to Dominion Voting Systems after the sides hammered out a last-minute settlement Tuesday in the explosive defamation case launched against the right-wing network.” The court determined that “certain claims about Dominion [are] false.”
This settlement also meant that any Fox executives and on-air personalities no longer have to testify about their 2020 election coverage on television.
It is important to remember that Dominion also has open lawsuits against Newsmax and OAN, as well as popular Trump supporters Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Mike Lindell.
Despite this settlement being reached, this case was historical for many reasons. Lawyers for Fox News had intended to use First Amendment arguments in this trial; however, the judge ruled they did not apply in this case. Had Fox News beat the trial, it would have set a new standard for what the press could report on.
Freedom of the press is a vital part of the United States Democracy; however, journalists, on-air personalities, and executives have a responsibility to follow the five key elements of journalism.
The American Press Institute classifies the 5 key elements as: “Obligation…to the truth…loyalty to its citizens…verifying information…maintaining independence from those they cover…and serving as an independent monitor of power.”
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics also states the importance of “seeking the truth and reporting it.” Journalists must adhere to these guidelines when covering the news.
However, it is clear that many of the on-air personalities and executives at Fox News forgot their responsibility as journalists and were swayed by the politics behind their topics.
This week, two widely-known personalities were let go from their respective networks: Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and CNN’s Don Lemon. Carlson hosted the 8 p.m. primetime slot on weekdays on Fox News and was one of the personalities named in the Dominion lawsuit. While it is unclear if this firing came as fallout from the lawsuit, it was a major shock to many, as Carlson brought a large viewership to the network.
As for Lemon, he previously hosted the 10 p.m. primetime slot on weekdays and was moved to the morning time slot after many changes came to the company due to a new CEO. Lemon worked for the company for over 17 years, and many were shocked to find out that it was a far from amicable departure.
Both personalities, despite being on opposite networks, have come under fire for sexist comments in the workplace. However, there is less information about Lemon’s firing than Carlson, as numerous ex-producers and ex-staff members have spoken out against Carlson, which paints a clearer picture of his abrupt departure from the network.
The First Amendment protects the freedom of the press to report on domestic and foreign news. However, the further you swerve away from the ethics of journalism and turn toward reality TV, the more consequences will follow.
The moment news networks become reality TV, people will no longer trust the news. Our country runs on checks and balances in the government, and journalists can act as the citizen’s check on all branches of the government. Without journalists reporting the facts, citizens have no way of understanding the decisions being made in their state or federal governments.
It is important that all journalists go back to their roots and remember what they were first taught before they go on air or start writing a piece that can be consumed by others.
It is imperative that all networks that cover the news, whether they be right-leaning, left-leaning, or in the middle, recommit themselves to reporting the truth with factual evidence to their viewers in the U.S. and across the world.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption:Tucker Carlson was one of the on-air media personalities fired from Fox News following the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit.