On Tuesday, as lawyers on both sides of the defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News were set to deliver their opening statements to the jury, Judge Eric M. Davis announced that the two parties had agreed to a settlement: Fox News would pay Dominion $787.5 million for telling Fox viewers that Dominion’s voting machines were susceptible to hacking and had flipped votes for Donald Trump to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election—claims which Fox executives and presenters knew to be false.
The settlement allows Fox News to avoid what promised to be an lenghty and ugly trial in which owner Rupert Murdoch and hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and others would have been summoned to testify in open court about knowingly misleading Fox viewers.
While Fox News will not have to issue a public apology for broadcasting misinformation, it did release a statement, saying: “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.”
In response to Fox News’s last-minute dodge, the president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Brenda Victoria Castillo, released the following statement:
Journalism is supposed to be about seeking the truth and reporting the facts. Instead, Fox News seeks ratings and reports disinformation. And then when caught is given a free pass. Today, Fox News set the price of spreading disinformation, deliberately misleading the public, and discrediting the democratic process at $787.5 million.
An unprecedented defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News was expected to begin today in Delaware, where Fox News would have had to publicly answer for the role it played to discredit our country’s fair and free elections in recent years. Rupert Murdoch and Fox News have gone to extreme lengths to hide their activities and mislead their viewer base, including directives from the Trump campaign to promote the January 6th insurrection.
The outcome of this case could have had reverberations across the country, particularly in Latino communities, where studies have shown that disinformation has been targeted at and particularly prevalent among our communities. It would have sent a strong message to both media and tech companies across the country that there would be consequences if you continue to hold disinformation as fact.
Instead, by settling out of court, what message does this send? Is $787.5 million now the going price of spreading disinformation in this country, and what stops media conglomerates around the world from continuing to promote falsehoods when they know they can pay their way out of accountability?
The National Hispanic Media Coalition has been actively speaking out against disinformation for years, working with the Spanish Language Disinformation Coalition and elected officials to highlight the impacts of disinformation and hold media companies accountable.
No more free passes. Any media company that knowingly spreads false information should answer to a jury. We will continue to fight to protect the most vulnerable communities, and we will use all our power to demand that the mainstream media does the same.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition is a woman-led non-profit civil and human rights organization that was founded to eliminate hate, discrimination, and racism toward Latino communities. Twitter: @NHMC