Fox Corp and Fox News on Tuesday settled a defamation lawsuit slapped against it by Dominion by agreeing to pay $787.5m to the voting equipment company.
The last-second settlement was announced just hours after a jury was sworn in at the Delaware Superior Court in what could have been the most high-profile trial involving the US’s most-watched cable news network.
The deal has now become the largest publicy known defamation settlement in the history of American media.
It is four times more than the earlier largest reported settlement between Disney and Beef Products Inc in 2017 in which the former agreed to pay the latter $177m to settle a defamation case.
The Dakota-based meat processing company had sued ABC News, owned by Disney, for reports in which it called one of the former’s processed meat products “pink slime”.
A lawyer for Disney said the actual settlement amount was much higher because of additional insurance recoveries.
At the time, ABC had not retracted its stories or apologised and had stood by its reporting.
Fox Corp has also stopped short of formally apologising or retracting its stories on the 2020 election involving Dominion.
“This is, by a large margin, the largest defamation settlement in US history,” tweeted Jeff Kosseff, cybersecurity law professor and top First Amendment expert.
The network, in a statement, admitted that the Delaware court where the trial was to take place found “certain claims about Dominion to be false”.
This is likely as far as Fox will go when it comes to acknowleding accusations that the network had a prominent role in airing election conspiracy theories to viewers, despite records and communications suggesting top figures at Fox knew such claims were false.
The $787.5m payout is roughly half of the $1.6bn that Dominion had sought after Fox was accused of airing false claims that Dominion’s ballot-counting machines were used to manipulate the presidential election in favour of Joe Biden over former president Donald Trump.
The payout by Fox is also nearly 10 times Dominion’s valuation in 2018 and around eight times its annual revenue in 2021, according to court filings.
Dominion CEO John Poulos called the settlement “historic”.
“Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company, our employees and our customers,” Mr Poulos said in a statement.
“Truthful reporting in the media is essential to our democracy,” he said.
The payout is only the second-largest awarded in US history.
The larger penalty was handed over to Alex Jones when he was ordered last November to pay $965m to the parents of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.
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