My Take: Dominion’s settlement with Fox made business sense
Delaware lost its second chance for an earthshaking trial yesterday when Fox News agreed to a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. The small army of journalists, lawyers and satellite trucks quickly left town.
Earlier, Tesla gazillionaire Elon Musk stopped short of going to court in agreeing to buy Twitter after attempting to back out of the $44 billion deal. Musk faced a Delaware Chancery Court trial where in all likelihood, he would have been ordered to buy the company.
Fox faced a similar uphill fight, this time in Superior Court. Judge Eric Davis had already ruled that the facts showed that Fox had allowed talk show guests to air falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election. The only question left was whether Fox acted with malice.
Malice is difficult to prove in defamation cases. Still, Dominion’s lawyers were able to obtain from Fox during discovery embarrassing emails from executives and popular hosts expressing doubts and dismay about the election claims. Still, the guests continued to show up for interviews airing outlandish claims of Dominion’s software tilting the election in favor of Joe Biden.
Fox critics hoped in vain that the company would allow the case to go to trial and permanently damage the network.
While a decision in Dominion’s favor seemed increasingly likely, there was no assurance that the jury would award the $1.6 billion he voting systems company sought. Fox could also appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the end, Dominion took the money. As a company with modest annual revenue, the settlement made business sense.
An apology was not in the cards. Analysts noted that Fox would not do so since it would provide evidence in other cases, including a $2.1 billion suit from Smartmatic in New York. Still, the settlement in Delaware set a precedent for future payouts.
As for Fox News, don’t bet on any major changes. The company, controlled by the Murdoch family, is said to have billions of dollars in reserve for settlements. It remains a highly profitable enterprise, thanks to advertising revenues and hefty fees paid by cable providers. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.