‘Stop now’: New Dominion emails suggest Fox News shut down fact-checks on false election claims
Top Fox News executives and anchors had doubts about claims from Donald Trump and his allies that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, but network leaders continued to air these conspiracy theories for fear of losing audience members, according to new emails obtained from Dominion Voting Systems’s defamation lawsuit against the conservative news network.
In one December 2020 email, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott reportedly told an employee who fact-checked Mr Trump to “stop now.”
“This is bad business and there clearly is a lack of understanding what is happening in these shows,” reads the email, part of a trove of documents obtained by watchdog group Media Matters for America. “The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material.”
In another email from the newsroom boss, she reportedly warns about content that could alienate audience members, writing, “I can’t keep defending these reporters who don’t understand our viewers and how to handle stories.”
“We lost 25k subs[cribers] from Fox Nation,” she adds.
The doubts, according to the new trove of emails, extended to top Fox News talent as well. In the notes ahead of an election-season interview, host Maria Bartiromo reportedly wrote, “I’ve not seen any proof so far of the ballot fraud.”
Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, reportedly called former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, a prominent advocate of election conspiracies, a “psychopath.”’
“She’s getting Trump all spun up and has zero evidence,” the anchor reportedly says in a message involved in the suit.
Producers for Jeanine Pirro reportedly went so far as to warn network executives that the host was about to air one election-season segment that was “rife w[ith] conspiracy theories and bs and us yet another example why this woman should never be on live television.”
The documents are the latest revelations from the suit indicating widespread knowledge at Fox News that the 2020 election claims of prominent guests and hosts were false.
Fox News owner, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, admitted during a deposition in the suit that his top talent “endorsed at times this false notion of a stolen election.”
“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” Mr Murdoch said, according to court documents.
In another set of messages released in the suit, Tucker Carlson describes how he “passionately” hates Donald Trump and looks forward to no longer covering him, though the host has denied this.
Fox News told The Independent the messages at issue were being taken out of context.
“These documents once again demonstrate Dominion’s continued reliance on cherry-picked quotes without context to generate headlines in order to distract from the facts of this case,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The foundational right to a free press is at stake and we will continue to fiercely advocate for the First Amendment in protecting the role of news organizations to cover the news.”
In regards to the message from Ms Scott, urging an employee who fact-checked certain election claims to “stop now,” the network said, “ï»¿This is not about fact checking - the issue at hand is one host calling out another.”
Fox added that message from Ms Scott about losing audience members was “about the tone and delivery of the correspondent, it has nothing to do with fact checking.”