The lawsuit against Fox is becoming a major First Amendment case

“We argue history in a certain way: what is historical truth? said Lee Levine, a renowned First Amendment lawyer who has argued several major media defamation cases. “Here you’re taking very recent current events and going through a process that in the end is potentially going to declare which is the correct version of history.”

The case caused palpable unease at Fox News, said several people on the spot, who would speak only anonymously. Presenters and executives are preparing for depositions and have been forced to hand over months of private emails and text messages to Dominion, which hopes to prove that network employees knew the savage ballot-rigging accusations in the 2020 election were false. Hosts Steve Doocy, Dana Perino and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox personalities who have been or will be deposed this month.

Dominion is trying to build a case that directly targets the top of the Fox media empire and the Murdochs. In court filings and depositions, attorneys for Dominion explained how they plan to show that senior Fox executives hatched a post-election plan to attract viewers who had switched to rival hard-right networks, which were initially more sympathetic than Fox was to Mr. Trump’s voter fraud allegations.

Libel law does not protect lies. But that leaves room for the media to cover the newsworthy personalities who tell them. And Fox argues, in part, that’s what shields him from liability. Asked about Dominion’s strategy to place the Murdochs at the center of the case, a Fox Corporation spokesman said it would be an “unsuccessful fishing expedition”. A Fox News spokeswoman said it was “ridiculous” to claim, as Dominion does in the lawsuit, that the network was chasing far-right fringe viewers.

Fox should challenge Dominion’s estimated self-assessment of $1 billion and argue that $1.6 billion is an unreasonably high amount for damages, as it did in a similar defamation case filed by a another voting machine company, Smartmatic.

A Dominion spokesperson declined to comment. In their initial complaint, the company’s lawyers wrote that “the truth matters”, adding that “lies have consequences”.

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