Rupert Murdoch leaked confidential information to Jared Kushner about Joe Biden’s strategic moves in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, according to a bombshell court filing by Dominion Voting Systems.
The company that sells hardware and software used during elections has slapped a $1.6bn defamation lawsuit against Fox News and accused the network of airing lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Dominion opposed Fox News’s move to throw out the lawsuit in the new filing on 27 February.
It alleged, through depositions, internal texts and emails, that Fox Corporation chairman Mr Murdoch had provided Donald Trump’s son-in-law advance knowledge of the then-Democratic presidential candidate’s advertisements and debate preparations.
“During Trump's campaign, Rupert provided Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy (providing Kushner a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public),” according to Dominion’s filing.
Mr Murdoch admitted during a sworn deposition that top personalities at the cable network promoted the baseless narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Mr Trump, it said.
“But, on election night, Rupert would not help with the Arizona call. As Rupert described it: ‘My friend Jared Kushner called me saying, “This is terrible,” and I could hear Trump’s voice in the background shouting’,” it further said.
“But Rupert refused to budge: ‘And I said, Well, the numbers are the numbers.’ By this point, Rupert knew no fraud had occurred,” according to the filing.
The recently unsealed documents include excerpts from a deposition in which Mr Murdoch admitted to hosts – including Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity – at times endorsing false election claims.
“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” Mr Murdoch said, according to court documents.
The filing said Mr Murdoch and Fox leadership had met after Election Day in November 2020 over concerns of “mounting viewer backlash” after the network predicted Mr Biden’s victory in Arizona, but agreed to air “wild claims” that the election was stolen from Mr Trump.
Despite the network’s top officials and widely watched anchors privately acknowledging that Mr Trump and his allies were lying, the network continued to air and amplify false claims, according to the court documents.
In one text from 16 November 2020, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said attorney Sidney Powell was “lying” about having evidence for election fraud.
Weeks before the presidential election in September, Mr Murdoch urged for Dobbs to be fired because he was “an extremist”, the filings claimed.
Mr Murdoch also said he thought it was “really bad” for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani to be advising Mr Trump because the mayor’s judgment “was bad” and he was “an extreme partisan”.
Fox attorneys have claimed their on-air discussions were protected under the First Amendment and do not meet grounds for defamation.
A spokesperson for Fox News told The Independent that “Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims.”
“Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear FOX for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment,” according to the statement.
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