Why Dominion is Suing Fox News for Defamation
In the aftermath of the 2020 United States presidential election, Fox News became embroiled in a scandal involving the spread of election fraud lies about Dominion Voting Systems, a company that provides voting machines and software to local governments across the country. The network used its platform to push unfounded claims about Dominion in an attempt to sow doubt about the election results and stoke anger among its viewers—for money.
The Dominion Voting Systems controversy first emerged in the days after the election, when Trump and his supporters began to claim that the company's machines had been used to switch votes from Trump to his opponent, Joe Biden. These claims were widely debunked by independent experts and election officials, who pointed out that Dominion machines do not have the ability to alter vote tallies and that the results had been thoroughly audited and certified.
Despite this, Fox News anchors and commentators continued to promote the false narrative that Dominion had played a role in widespread election fraud. In many cases, they did so without any evidence to back up their claims. For example, on November 9th, Fox News host Lou Dobbs claimed on his show that "it's clear that the machines were programmed to cheat," without offering any proof or citing any credible sources.
Other Fox News personalities went further, alleging that Dominion had ties to left-wing activists and foreign governments and suggesting that the company was part of a sinister plot to steal the election from Trump. These claims were baseless and unsupported by any evidence, but they were repeated often enough to create a sense of confusion and suspicion among Fox News viewers. Perhaps most disturbing, recently released evidence makes it clear that Fox hosts and its network executives knew these election fraud accusations were false and believed those making them were "nutty" and "dangerous."
The impact of Fox News's Dominion lies was significant. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 36% of Trump supporters believed that Dominion had helped Biden steal the election, compared to just 6% of Biden supporters. This suggests that the false claims propagated by Fox News had a disproportionate effect on conservative viewers, who were more likely to trust the network's reporting and less likely to seek out alternative sources of information.
The motives behind Fox News's spread of election fraud lies about Dominion are complex, but they likely involve a combination of financial and ideological factors. On one hand, the network may have seen the controversy as an opportunity to attract and retain viewers by catering to their preexisting beliefs and fears. By telling them what they wanted to hear, Fox News could maintain its status as the leading voice of the conservative movement and ensure that its audience remained loyal and engaged.
By promoting false claims about election fraud, the network contributed to a sense of political polarization and division that has continued to plague the country in the months since the election. It also eroded public trust in the democratic process and the institutions that oversee it, which is a dangerous precedent to set in a free and democratic society.