Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Victory is Theirs


News quiz: Which best describes the outcome for Fox News yesterday in the lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems?

a) a victory
b) a huge victory
c) a phenomenal victory

A usually sober congressman, evidently not sober at the moment he hit send or "tweet":

The press release in question reads

We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. 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. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.

Fox News therein did not specify any particular host or which claims they were talking about. It did not admit that either the network and/or any particular host was responsible for the claims. They did not concede that any claim was knowingly inaccurate and merely acknowledged the court's rulings- not that they were accurate. Other than that, it was a true confession.

Jeremy Peters and Katie Robertson of The New York Times reported

Fox News abruptly agreed on Tuesday to pay $787.5 million to resolve a defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s promotion of misinformation about the 2020 election, averting a lengthy and embarrassing trial just as a packed courtroom was seated in anticipation of hearing opening statements.

Particularly important to the American people

Fox News’s last-minute settlement with Dominion Voting Systems on Tuesday earned banner coverage on every television news network but one: Fox News.

The $787.5 million settlement was covered only three times by Fox News in about four hours after the settlement became public, amounting to about six minutes of coverage. For most of the day, including during the network’s prime-time shows, hosts appeared to be focusing on other issues, like illegal immigration and Covid-19’s possible origins.

And the figurative bottom line is

Under the terms of the settlement, Fox News will not have to apologize or admit to spreading false claims on network programming, according to a person familiar with the details of the agreement.

The question thus arises as to why Dominion would have agreed to a settlement which allows Fox News to continue to do what it does best, manipulate its viewers.

CNN and MSNBC punditry, though inclusive of lawyers, journalists, and others, is dominated by lawyers, especially on matters related to the law.

Few of them will tell the truth. In some cases they are not lying but really, truly believe in their profession. In this case, several have said that the deal has now revealed that Fox News was lying. This is intentionally misleading because they are aware that consumers of MSNBC, CNN, or a national newspaper already knew the network was fabricating. Most viewers of Fox News, whose coverage of the matter was virtually nonexistent, didn't know and still don't. 

A welcome exception, Elie Mystal gets close to divulging the bias of civil litigators.

 

If I were their lawyers, I probably would have told them to take the money. The preference of most civil litigators is to take the money and run. In some cases- not this one- there is a significant chance that the jury would rule against them if the case were taken to trial. 

But even in this case, in which there was little chance that the defendant would win at trial or that the decision would be overturned on appeal, there is serious pressure for the plaintiff to settle. Their attorneys get their cut and they get it relatively promptly. The plaintiff usually believes there is a principle involved, in this case that their business should not be irrepairably harmed  but that motivation can be overcome because a media company lies about it in order to promote a myth about a presidential election.

Understandably, however, their attorneys, who themselves were not slandered, don't care about viewers being intentionally misled. Given the common approach for litigants, it wouldn't be surprising if Dominion's attorneys convinced their client that the only real principle involved is that the offending party be penalized severely for damaging the company- and that the better part of a billion dollars would go a long way toward that.

So you can call it a "huge" or a "phenomenal" victory. But unless you're Representative Swalwell (not coincidentally, a lawyer) or take at their word some of the shills for the legal profession on cable news, you'll know it as a very good day indeed for Fox News and its parent company.



            



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