Fox Corp. privately settled a defamation case with the Venezuelan businessman Majed Khalil last week, according to a letter to the federal judge overseeing the case dated Saturday.
Khalil was ensnared in voting machine conspiracy theories advanced by Trump lawyer Sidney Powell on the Fox Business show “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and on social media, and he sued Fox Corp., Fox News and Dobbs for defamation.
The settlement comes days before Dominion Voting System’s sweeping defamation case heads to trial. The specific broadcast and tweet Khalil challenged are also challenged in Dominion’s suit. Fox canceled Dobbs' well-rated show in February 2021.
According to court documents, Khalil was described on Dobbs' show and on social media as a key player in a voting machine scheme tied to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that Powell claimed was used to rig the 2020 U.S. election in a Dec. 10 broadcast that year. Dobbs’ Twitter account described it as a “cyber Pearl Harbor in the 2020 election" the same day.
According to Khalil's filing, he has never had business dealings or ties to the voting system companies Dominion or Smartmatic.
“The parties are pleased to jointly inform the Court that they have reached a confidential agreement to resolve this matter. The parties anticipate filing a joint stipulation of dismissal with prejudice early next week,” the attorneys said in a letter to the court.
U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton of the Southern District of New York shot down a motion to dismiss the proceedings last year, disagreeing with Fox News’ argument that the broadcast and tweet promoting it were protected by the First Amendment and other legal protections. Khalil was never contacted by Fox Business in its reporting, the order noted, even as he was repeatedly identified as a player in a criminal scheme.
“This matter has been resolved amicably by both sides," a Fox News spokesperson said. "We have no further comment.”
RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor at the University of Utah College of Law who specializes in the First Amendment, said the settlement previews a key part of the upcoming trial.
"It confirms that one of the trickiest pieces for Fox in all of this is the messaging that came out of Lou Dobbs," she said.