The Dominion Voting Systems trial against Fox News hasn’t even started, but so much detail surrounding the $1.6 billion defamation suit has already come to light.
There have been thousands of pages of exhibits, filings and depositions released pretrial, giving people a glimpse into what was going on behind the scenes as Fox News gave on-air credence to the baseless theory that former President Donald Trump had the 2020 election stolen from him.
Some of that information was made public despite Fox News’ attempts to keep it hidden. When internal communications from Fox News were initially released last month, there were significant redactions to texts, emails and other communications.
Jury selection underway in Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox NewsApril 13, 202301:35
A spokesperson for Fox News argued at the time that the redactions were “consistent with the law and court rulings” and “in accordance with the reporters’ privilege.” The network has also criticized Dominion’s filings for relying on “cherry-picked quotes without context to generate headlines in order to distract from the facts of this case.”
Fox News did not return a request for additional comment for this article.
The judge, however, eventually agreed with lawyers for Dominion and media organizations that Fox News had blacked out too much information and more of it was made public.
What came out was information that cast Fox News in a bad light, with some hosts disparaging their guests and acknowledging that the election conspiracy theories were off base.
Jury selection began in a Delaware courtroom this week, and the trial is scheduled to begin Monday. Dominion will attempt to convince a jury that Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp., acted with “actual malice” — knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth — when it aired conspiracy theories about Dominion’s voting machines and the 2020 election. Fox News has argued that the case is about the “First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news.”
Here’s a look at just a small part of what Fox News wanted to keep hidden before the proceedings get underway.
Slide to the left for what Fox wanted the public to see, and to the right for what was eventually revealed.
In a text message on Nov. 21, 2020, that Fox News tried to keep redacted, prime-time host Tucker Carlson indicated to Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis that he didn’t believe her claims about Dominion’s voting machines and thought they were “shockingly reckless.” Yet just two days later, Carlson was on air expressing concern about the “security of our electronic voting machines.”
“This is a real issue, no matter who raises it or who tries to dismiss it out of hand as a conspiracy theory,” he added.
In a Nov. 17, 2020, text message to an unknown individual, Carlson expressed his disdain for Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. He described her as a “psychopath,” a “crazy person” and a “f------ b----” who was “getting Trump all spun up and has zero evidence” about a stolen election. Fox News originally wanted all this information redacted.
Carlson did confront Powell privately, pushing her for more evidence for her theories, and he criticized her on air as well. Yet she continued to find a home on shows in the larger Fox family.
Fox News wanted to redact what host Jeanine Pirro’s executive producer thought of one of her monologues after the 2020 election: “This is completely crazy.”
Pirro was one of the Fox hosts who repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories about Dominion, even after it became clear — including by some people who worked at the network, according to internal messages — that there was no truth to them.
On Nov. 16, 2020, the team at the Fox Business show “Lou Dobbs Tonight” received an email from Ed Rollins, a contributor and GOP strategist who had run a pro-Trump super PAC. In that email, Rollins stated clearly that he believed Biden had won the election.
“I have seen or heard of no evidence of fraud,” Rollins wrote, in a message that Fox News tried to keep redacted. “The conspiracy theories put forth by Rudy and Sidney are all bulls---.”
Dobbs continued to push claims that electronic voting machines had contributed to a stolen election. In mid-December, however, he was forced to air a fact-checking segment that debunked many of his show’s on-air allegations.
Fox News wanted to redact a message from Tiffany Fazio, a top producer for Sean Hannity's prime-time show, saying that another host, Laura Ingraham, was skeptical of the allegations about Dominion Voting Systems because of their popularity on a site that pushed other conspiracy theories around QAnon.
"Laura is not touching dominion story bc it started on 8chan," Fazio wrote to Porter Berry, who oversaw digital content for Fox News.
On Nov. 12, 2020, Hannity sent a message to a group of producers and expressed his concern about a drop in ratings.
“The difference between Tuesday and Wednesday ratings is we had nothing new and less hard hitting imho,” he said in the message Fox News wanted to keep redacted.
He then followed up with a solution: “We need to own the dominion story.”