Fox News is Being Sued Again This Time by Election Company Smartmatic and It's a Hard Lesson in Facts vs Punditry

BR Rogers

On March 8th of this year, a judge determined that the Smartmatic lawsuit filed initially in 2021 could move forward, as with the Dominion lawsuit already in progress. This marks the second election company to sue Rupert Murdoch's Fox News in a larger, which is a more expansive lawsuit than the in-progress suit Dominion filed against Fox News. Smartmatic's suit claim amount? $2.7 Billion. This is almost twice that of the Dominion suit, whose claim sits at $1.6 Billion. Punitive damages, however, might result in a much larger award to Dominion should it win its suit against Fox News and owner Rupert Murdoch. The same could happen in Smartmatic's suit.

Earlier this month, Murdoch shocked his shareholders, the entire legal world, and indeed most of the news-watching world by admitting that he had allowed Fox News hosts to broadcast falsehoods and to amplify Trump's message that the election was stolen. He went further still when asked about the My Pillow Company President, Michael Lindell, stating that this was a financial decision, not a political one, something no one expected as he sat on the stand under oath:

“It is not red or blue, it is green,” - Rupert Murdoch

The fact that money is more important than truth or politics in his empire wasn't a surprise--the blatant, honest admission of it--on the stand and in a court of law--was the real shocker. Does Murdoch now realize the seriousness of what Fox News hosts did in lying to their viewers? If so, it seems odd then that he's allowing Tucker Carlson to continue to double down on it now, despite Murdoch's admissions in court, Carlson has continued to assert that the January 6th insurrection, which arguably occurred as a result of those upset by Trump's election loss who suspected it was fraud, and despite that claim was thrown out of court in more than 60 courtrooms across the United States presided over by both Republican and Democratic judges.

Even the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Murdoch's empire, is reporting on the bizarre internal Fox News communications during that time, showing damning evidence in emails and text messages sent, for example, by Fox Producers, some of whom didn't just work for Fox News, but had gone back and forth alternately employed Trump's White House and Fox News.

Why it's important that Murdoch has admitted to Fox News' irresponsibility is the irreparable damages linked to the insurrection on January 6, specifically to the police officers in Washington, D.C. who lost their lives or who were irreparably injured at the hands of rioters.

Reporting responsibly, factually, is foundational to the United States and the reason why the founding fathers of America believed that a free press was essential to liberty. Murdoch's father founded a news empire in Australia but was knighted (in the UK). He was a journalist. Not an entertainment publisher; a newspaperman. For those who believe in vetting sources, fact-checking, and providing articles based on factual data, that legacy is an important one as it ties directly to the source of democracy, and of freedom itself according to American history.

That the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.” - Virginia Declaration of Rights

The Founding Fathers of America believed a free press was essential to keeping a democracy alive in America's new republic:

A Republic, if you can keep it. - Benjamin Franklin to Mrs. Powell as recorded by James McHenry in his diary, provided by Julie Miller, Manuscript Div. historian and early America specialist.

Is Murdoch old-school enough that he can't bring himself to lie under oath?--we must assume so and be grateful that he didn't make it worse by trying to deny it.

Perhaps part of his willingness to divulge under oath that he knew his hosts were lying is the knowledge of just how far the lies Fox News told have gone, and how according to members of the current Congress, who are splitting apart even inside the Republican Party, they are now endangering the democracy of the United States. He testified under oath that several of his on-air pundits knew that Trump was lying about unfair elections. Murdoch has admitted in court to having knowledge--and endorsing--what his Fox News hosts were doing, the details of which have been partially revealed in the unsealing of the court documents associated with the Dominion filing, and the emails and texts Fox News producers exchanged with Trump's White House now further showing this to be true.

Murdoch's Entertainment Empire

Murdoch just turned 92, celebrating his birthday this past week. Murdoch's 6 children are by now used to both Murdoch and his companies being sued even more often than he goes through wives (4 so far)--that is, more frequently than even the average for the other rich white male members of The Forbes 400. Murdoch's lifestyle, similar to Donald Trump's, whose claims are now the reason for both the Dominion and Smartmatic lawsuits against him, faces the prospect of dealing with leaving his empire behind amid scandal and must decide which of his children are to inherit most of that power, expected to wane in the wake of both lawsuits, a situation which is not far removed from Succession, the fictional TV show and its depiction--that is loosely based on the Murdoch Family. At the moment, Murdoch's two eldest children have more financial power over his empire than the others, but his other children's mothers are contesting this state of affairs.

Regardless of the outcome of either of the election-based lawsuits, when a magnate with the influence Murdoch has wielded inside the entertainment publishing industry admits to knowingly allowing the promulgation of lies via his on-air pundits to support fake news and boost advertising in the case of the My Pillow Customer in their own promulgation of Trump's claims simply to keep their viewer base happy, it's not just a difficult broadcast environment, but a threatened one, too.

Yet, it's not journalism that's failed. Fox News is part of an entertainment publishing empire.

Understanding the difference between fact-based news and an entertainment publisher--or understanding when an outlet is providing a mix of the two--is critical for readers and viewers.

Finding out if an outlet claiming to be news-based--rather than an entertainment-based outlet--finding out if they adhere to the SPJ's Code of Ethics is a good start. It is not surprising that Fox News is not listed by Forbes in their report of reputable news agencies but it is notable that Fox is placed on the far-right, and within the md-to-lower, less-reputable regions on many media bias charts from multiple sources.
Ad Fontes Media Bias ChartPhoto byWomen's League of Voters

News outlets that fall in the center and top indicate the least bias and the closest adherence to facts.

It's equally notable that Tucker Carlson has admitted to being a storyteller and not a journalist, and when interviewed in 2021, he also said

“I mean I lie if I’m really cornered or something. I lie.” - Tucker Carlson in 2021

In 2018, USA Today also reported well ahead of this current mess, that Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity are not journalists.

Factual Reporting

Factual reporting is not storytelling. Of course, when you deliver the news there is a storytelling element to crafting a story, but if you're reporting the facts, you're crafting a non-fiction storytelling narrative, not a fictional story. The ability to tell those two apart is what pundits who are not journalists hope their viewers won't figure out. On behalf of advertisers, like the My Pillow company, entertainment publishers hope readers and viewers won't acquire a taste for accurate, factual news. Please do.

A Taste for Facts

Facts are never predicated on whether a journalist or a news platform likes--or doesn't like--the facts or events.

Facts do not change because we don't like them. If they did, oh the things I wish I could change, dear reader.

Many of us are disgusted by the fact that Russia has invaded Ukraine and subsequently committed war crimes against humanity and don't want those things to be true--yet this doesn't mean those crimes didn't happen.

Taking a denial approach--rather than an interpretive-truth approach to the news is dangerous. It has, at previous times in world history, led populations in both Europe and America into world wars. It would be both ethical and intelligent to consciously choose not to pursue a repeat of that history by refusing to allow the kinds of lies preceding the genocidal events.

Really. Haven't we had enough of those in our history?

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