Dominion Voting, America’s unexpected fighter for its fledgling democracy, settled its $1.6 billion lawsuit with Fox and decided to step out of the ring with a bag of money instead of vanquishing one of the country’s most destructive and influential peddlers of hate and disinformation.
On Tuesday, Dominion accepted a $787.5 million payment from Fox effectively ending their two-year defamation case against the disinformation network that knowingly promoted conspiracy theories and lies about the voting company’s role in the 2020 election. “We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” Fox said in a statement.
For those worried about the future of capitalism, the Dominion-Fox lawsuit is a good reminder that bad-faith right-wing actors with money can still trump accountability. Although temporarily weakened, Fox remains healthy enough to continue being a platform for white nationalist talking points—and is free to double down on its attack on our democracy, marginalized communities, the environment, and the truth.
Thanks in part to Fox, a majority of Republican voters now believe the “big lie” that President Trump won the 2020 election, which he actually lost by 7 million votes. These lies, amplified by Trump and Fox, radicalized thousands of individuals to take part in a failed, violent insurrection against our free and fair election. This act of terror ultimately led to the death of several people, including a Capitol Hill police officer.
The lie also recently radicalized Dave DePape, who decided to visit Nancy Pelosi’s home and continue the failed coup by nearly killing her husband. By using its network to promote this lie, along with the “deep state” and “replacement theory” conspiracies, Fox has effectively engaged in stochastic terrorism by placing a target on law enforcement, elected officials, poll workers, media institutions, educators, doctors, and Dominion itself.
In light of such destructive behavior, the hope for America’s beleaguered majority was that Dominion’s lawsuit would not only expose Fox’s role and hypocrisy in fomenting chaos for sake of profit, but finally punish it as well. Unlike so many corporate institutions that continue bending the knee to bad-faith right-wing actors, and engaging in “both sides” coverage for the sake of profit and access, Dominion was rare in that it fought back. They took a play from Trump’s litigious playbook and decided to fight Fox in court. The defamation trial could have extracted a giant piece of financial flesh from Fox, but the real coup de grace would have been a lengthy trial that lays bare the depth of Fox’s hypocrisy, venality, and insincerity—which would have weakened their credibility and stature ahead of the 2024 election.
The discovery process already revealed stunning quotes that have tainted the network. Rupert Murdoch, one of the worst villains of the 21st century, admitted that even though he knew some Fox hosts were spreading lies about the election, he chose not to intervene. Under oath, he said that Fox was “trying to straddle the line between conspiracy theories on one hand, yet calling out the fact that they are actually false on the other.” Well, they failed on both accounts, thanks in part to Fox’s star hosts.
Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham went along with promoting the lie, giving a platform to the most unhinged conspiracy theorists even as they privately ridiculed them. “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” Carlson texted Laura Ingraham on Nov. 18, 2022. Ingraham responded by calling her a “complete nut.” Even though Carlson admitted in a text that his viewers will “believe it,” the network continued promoting the big lie because the right-wing base they helped radicalize was moving on to more unhinged pastures, such as Newsmax and OANN, that were all too happy dispensing bat-shit nonsense 24-7.
Carlson’s text messages also revealed what MAGA’s greatest culture warrior actually thought about Trump. Carlson referred to him as a “demonic force, a destroyer,” whom he hates “passionately” and who “could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.” Despite all their best efforts, right-wing donors and Murdoch have not been able to elevate pudding-loving Ron DeSantis, who has failed to dislodge Trump as GOP voters’ number one choice as a Presidential candidate.
As such, Fox, just like GOP politicians like Sens. Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, must sacrifice whatever morsel of decayed dignity that was left in their rancid souls, and transform into pathetic masochists to retain relevance and credibility with the MAGA base. On cue, Carlson was forced to humiliate himself last week in a groveling interview with Trump where the former reality TV star completely took over the conversation and made Carlson look like a weak, impotent simp.
If Dominion had continued its lawsuit, this brazen hypocrisy—and, I’ll admit it, beautiful entertainment—would be played out publicly. We’d have Fox executives and hosts on the stand confronted with their texts, emails, and messages. There would be more discovery and subsequent revelations. In order to protect themselves, some Fox employees would have to call out the nuts they have on their networks, including hosts and guests. They’d twist, squirm, and contort when forced to explain why they chose to promote lies. Tucker would be asked if he really believes that Trump is a “demonic force,” a day after possibly praising him on his show. Also, Dominion might have actually won the case and walked out with a bigger bag, possibly more than a billion dollars.
All of this exposure would significantly weaken, humiliate, and compromise Fox ahead of the 2024 elections. But, all of that is for naught with this settlement.
Sure, some damage is done. The texts are out and can’t be forgotten. $787 million is no small chunk of change. It’s more than a flesh wound, but it’s not a grave injury.
Is there real accountability? No. Most importantly, is this a deterrent to stop future bad behavior? I don’t think so. They’ll just be more clever and subtle with their dog whistles and throw in some disclaimers here and there with a wink and nudge. And if that doesn’t work, well, they can just do what they’ve always done when confronted with accountability for their horrific actions: they can just buy their troubles away.