Murdoch family ordered Fox hosts to dial back anti-Trump comments, Dominion lawsuit claims

News anchor’s anti-Trump coverage was called ‘mug and obnoxious’

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 28 February 2023 15:41 GMT
Related ‘Why Does Rupert Murdoch Want to Destroy America?’ asks CNN’s Briana Keilar

Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son targeted a Fox News anchor for his “anti-Trump” stance that was deemed “smug and condescending”, a legal filing in a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit claimed.

Former Fox News anchor Leland Vittert, who has now joined NewsNation, was called out by CEO Suzanne Scott at the directions of Fox Corporation executive chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch, Mr Murdoch’s oldest son, according to court documents.

This was revealed in a new legal filing on 27 February which is part of a $1.6bn defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News.

The lawsuit allege that the conservative network carried Donald Trump’s false and malicious rumours about voter fraud in the coverage of the 2020 presidential election that harmed its business.

The documents by the ballot tech company have revealed several comments and messages made by Fox News employees after the 2020 election.

“Lachlan continued to advise on how Fox should cover the news related to the 2020 Presidential Election,” an excerpt from the filing said.

“For instance, he told Scott on November 14 during Fox’s coverage of a rally in support of Donald Trump that ‘News guys have to be careful how they cover this rally. So far some of the side comments are slightly anti, and they shouldn’t be. The narrative should be this is a huge celebration of the 25 president,” it added.

“Scott responded: ‘Yes thanks’; and when Lachlan then criticized Leland Vittert’s coverage as ‘[s]mug and obnoxious,’ Scott said she was ‘calling now’ to direct Vittert’s producer to fix the issue,” it said.

The filing also revealed that Lachlan Murdoch demanded reprimand of Shephard Smith who quit Fox News in 2019 to join CNBC.

He emailed the top executives when Mr Smith attacked the “Trump Administration’s lies” calling it “over the top!” and said he “needs to chat to him”.

In response to the latest filing, Fox News said Dominion’s lawsuit is a “blatant violation of the First Amendment”.

“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,” the broadcaster said.

“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.”

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