Fox News settlement with Dominion Voting won’t end the network’s trafficking in lies

Spreading lies most certainly should have consequences, and Fox will have to pay out $787.5 million for its lies about Dominion Voting. But expect the network to keep trafficking in lies, junk science and conspiracy theories.

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A man walks past the News Corp. Building and Fox News Headquarters on April 19 in New York City. The network will have to pay $787.5 million for its lies about Dominion Voting Systems.

A man walks past the News Corp. Building and Fox News Headquarters on April 19 in New York City. The network will have to pay $787.5 million for its lies about Dominion Voting Systems.

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Tuesday’s historic, 11th hour settlement between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems for a whopping $787.5 million for defamation was justice for Dominion, which Fox hosts had baselessly smeared to sow doubt in the 2020 presidential election results.

“Over two years ago, a torrent of lies swept Dominion and election officials across America into an alternative universe of conspiracy theories causing grievous harm to Dominion and the country,” said Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson. “Today’s settlement of $787.5 million represents vindication and accountability.”

He also declared, “The truth matters. Lies have consequences.”

When it comes to journalism, the truth should matter. And spreading knowably false lies most certainly should have consequences — Fox News having to pay out nearly a billion dollars is inarguably one.

(And don’t forget, Fox is also being sued by Smartmatic, another voting systems company that alleges it was defamed, for a staggering $2.7 billion.)

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But will a network that has decided to recklessly traffic in and promote lies, junk science, and unfounded conspiracy theories, and purposefully omit and distort the truth to keep its viewers rabidly tuned in, feel at all chastened by what can only be described as an unequivocal and unprecedented smackdown?

Whether Fox News cares about its reputation or its bottom line, this case should give top brass 787.5 million reasons to abandon its model of pushing low-calorie, high-outrage MAGA red meat at the expense of facts.

Even without an embarrassing trial, the pre-trial depositions revealed that Fox executives and hosts knowingly lied to viewers, and platformed irresponsible guests like Rudy Giuliani, Mike Lindell, and Sidney Powell, who they knew not to be credible. “Tons of crazy,” one Fox communications exec texted a colleague about an interview between Maria Bartiromo and Powell.

Anchors like Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro’s misleading infotainment antics have severely damaged the outlet’s journalism brand, which has long been in tension with its prime time, pro-Trump lineup.

But outwardly, at least, Fox seems nonplussed, practically ignoring the story on its own airwaves, and issuing a comically blasé statement in the wake of the settlement.

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“We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”

But “these issues” — election lies — have been bread-and-butter for Fox, which actively refused to allow the country to “move forward” from an election that was neither stolen nor rigged, as former President Donald Trump and Fox hosts have insisted.

The election denialism is obviously the biggest and most sensational lie Fox has pushed in recent years. But it’s hardly the only one. And others have been just as pernicious.

The family of Seth Rich, a Democratic staffer, sued Fox and settled in 2020 for spreading vile conspiracy theories about his still-unsolved murder.

“The settlement with Fox News closes another chapter in our efforts to mourn the murder of our beloved Seth, whom we miss every single day,” the Riches wrote in a statement. “We…sincerely hope that the media will take genuine caution in the future.”

Of course, Jan. 6, 2021 proved Fox had learned no such lesson. Fox anchors have minimized and misled about the deadly insurrection, with Carlson airing an absurd and highly edited video of Trump supporters at the Capitol, insisting they were merely “sightseers,” conveniently leaving out scenes of the violence.

In fact, the family of police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died following the riot, has begged Fox and Carlson to stop the “ongoing attack on our family by the unscrupulous and outright sleazy so-called news network.”

As far back as 2011, Fox allowed then-citizen Trump, other guests and hosts to promote unfounded conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Fox has been caught multiple times manipulating and doctoring images and videos to better suit a narrative.

Then there were the countless COVID conspiracy theories Fox let its hosts and guests push, along with the pro-Putin propaganda that comrades like Carlson have parroted. Carlson, in particular, has been such a regular offender that Fox’s own lawyers have argued viewers should not trust him to traffic in facts.

But given just how endemic conspiracy theories and mis-information seem to be to Fox’s news operation and viewer retention efforts, does anyone truly believe that paying out $787.5 million — roughly 19% of Fox’s $4 billion in cash-on-hand — is going to fundamentally change the way they do business or report the news?

You can count me a skeptic.

S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.

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