Fox News to pay 787.5m dollars to settle defamation suit

Conservative US network Fox News has agreed to pay 787.5 million dollars to Dominion Voting Systems, the electronic voting machine company that accused it of defamation during the 2020 US presidential election, Dominion's lawyer announced on Tuesday.

“Today’s settlement of 787.5 million dollars represents vindication and accountability," Justin Nelson told a news conference outside a courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. "The truth matters," he said. "Lies have consequences."

The negotiated settlement spares Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, the favourite of US conservatives, an embarrassing trial.

"We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems," the network said in a statement. It also said it "acknowledge[d] a court decision finding certain claims about Dominion to be false".

In its complaint, Dominion Voting Systems, whose machines were used in 28 states during the election won by Joe Biden in November 2020, accused Fox News of portraying it as a tool of the Democrats to rig the election, a claim that members of Donald Trump's inner circle repeatedly made without evidence on the most-watched US cable channel.

This settlement thus saves the network from being subjected to what the New York Times called "the libel suit of the century". It also saves Murdoch, 92, from the prospect of having to testify.

The proceedings had led to an embarrassing revelation for Fox News, with the publication of email or text message exchanges showing that the network's stars, and even Murdoch himself, hardly believed the scenario of a rigged election while the accusations were being made on air.

The trial was eagerly awaited in the US, where it was seen as a test of the limits of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, as well as the fight against disinformation.


Dominion Voting Systems attorney Justin Nelson speaks to the media after the voting machine manufacturer and Fox News settled a defamation lawsuit on 18 April 2023 © ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

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