NPR's David Folkenflik has a good story on the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News, but he still allows Fox to get away with continuing to push their lies.
September 8, 2022

NPR's David Folkenflik has a fairly good story on the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News. The breaking news is that a Fox producer, who's not named, sent an email warning that one Fox host's claims of fraud after the 2020 presidential election were toxic:

The November 2020 email from an anguished Fox News news producer to colleagues sent up a flare amid a fusillade of false claims.

The producer warned: Fox cannot let host Jeanine Pirro back on the air. She is pulling conspiracy theories from dark corners of the Web to justify then-President Donald Trump's lies that the election had been stolen from him. The existence of the email, confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of it, is first publicly disclosed by NPR in this story.

The NPR story provides some examples of Pirro's on-air commentary:

On Nov. 14, 2020, for example, the day that Biden clinched his victory, Pirro questioned why vote counts shifted against Trump over the course of Election Night in such states as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. (Some counties were counted later than others; ballots cast the same day were often tallied before those cast by mail.) "The Dominion Software System has been tagged as one allegedly capable of flipping votes," Pirro told viewers, as she promoted Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell's "findings" on Dominion. (A federal judge in Michigan later officially sanctioned Powell for her actions in court on Trump's behalf after the elections, while the Texas state law bar is seeking to have her formally punished.)

Folkenflik reached out to Fox for its side of the story. Here's what Fox said:

"Freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be protected," a senior spokeswoman for Fox News said in a statement to NPR. She called the damages claims "outrageous, unsupported and not rooted in sound financial analysis, serving as nothing more than a flagrant attempt to deter our journalists from doing their jobs."

"All you're reporting to the public is that somebody - in this case, the president of the United States - has made the allegation of voter fraud by Dominion," Dan Webb, Fox News' outside attorney on the case, tells NPR. "I don't know how anything could be more newsworthy than the president of the United States making the allegation, and his lawyers making the allegations in court, because that's so fundamental."

Does Folkenflik explain that that's not "all" Fox was "reporting to the public"? Does he point out that there was far more in the disputed broadcasts than just a recounting of what President Trump was saying about the election?

No. And while you might say it's obvious that the Fox statement is at odds with the facts, Folkenkflik should have said so explicitly. I get it: The mainstream press believes that the subject of a negative story has a right to respond. But the right to respond is not a right to inject an unchallenged lie into the discussion.

As Dominion's complaint against Fox makes clear, Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and other Fox hosts repeatedly hosted such conspiratorialists as Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani -- Powell was a regular guest on Fox well after the Trump White House cut ties with her. The Fox hosts reported their outlandish claims even after state and federal government bodies rejected them. This wasn't neutral reporting. Fox went out of its way to put conspiratorialists on the air. So why let the Fox spokesman lie about this now?

Folkenflik does tell us:

In conducting the first interview of Trump after the election, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo told Trump and her viewers, "This is disgusting, and we cannot allow America's election to be corrupted." In mid-December, Bartiromo announced that "an intel source" told her that Trump had won the election. She never followed up with any further material to substantiate that reporting.


In December 2020, while still a Fox Business host, [Lou] Dobbs said opponents of President Trump throughout the government had committed "treason," and later suggested that any Republican who upheld President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the Electoral College may be "criminal."

That implicitly rebuts the Fox statement -- but readers should still be told that the statement is false.

There's also this in the story:

Asked by NPR whether Fox still considers Bartiromo a news anchor, and thus part of Fox's news and reporting division, rather than its opinion side, a network spokeswoman declined to comment. It is the first known time Fox has not identified Bartiromo as a news-side journalist.

This is nonsense framing that Fox has been getting away with for years. Fox backs critics down by claiming that it's a first-rate news outlet that also happens to broadcast a few hours of opinion a week. The implication is that you can't blame the "real" Fox -- the news side -- for what a few peripheral opinion hotheads say in prime time. Even if we were to ignore the fact that those opinion-mongers make Fox most of its money, what difference does it make whether a false and defamatory statement is made by an opinion-side host or a news-side host? If Tucker Carlson or Jeanine Pirro falsely described you on the air as a child molester, would you be any less defamed than if Bill Hemmer said the same thing?

Let's watch how this case unfolds. I'm not expecting much, but maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised.

Posted with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog

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