A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
On Sunday the Fox News Channel’s news facade was chipped away when Chris Wallace decamped to CNN. On Monday the hypocrisy of Fox’s biggest stars was highlighted by a bipartisan House committee. On Tuesday the network belatedly and weakly defended itself. And the week wasn’t even half over yet.
On Wednesday Fox’s social media team was forced to delete an antisemitic cartoon after advocacy groups shamed the network. And today, Thursday, Fox was set back in court in a big way. As Katelyn Polantz reports here, “a judge in Delaware has found that Fox News’ coverage of election fraud after the 2020 election may have been inaccurate, and is allowing a major defamation case against the right-wing TV network to move forward.”
“The ruling will now allow Dominion to attempt to unearth extensive communications within Fox News as they gather evidence for the case, and the company may be able to interview the network’s top names under oath,” Polantz explains.
For that reason, some media writers are speculating that the network will now try to settle, lest it be subjected to the embarrassment of the discovery process. “Fox loses the key motion; cases often settle at this point,” Ben Smith tweeted, “and a settlement here would likely be a big number. It’s a very strong case.”
On the other hand, Dominion wants to have its name cleared, and a confidential settlement might not seem sufficient.
“At this stage, the court must assume Dominion’s claims about Fox News are true,” Polantz writes. Still, the judge’s 52-page opinion noted that Fox “may have slanted its coverage to push election fraud, knowing the accusations were wrong.”
“Sold their souls”
“Wrong” has been a throughline in the outside coverage about Fox this week. As the network’s ranks of reporters shrank and conspiratorial ranters grew, Wallace decided not to re-up his contract. Fox’s court jester ridiculed him on the way out.
“There’s a good chance Wallace had enough of being on the wrong end of conservative wrath,” the former Fox analyst Bernard Goldberg wrote for The Hill on Thursday.
Goldberg, who was a regular on Bill O’Reilly’s show back in the day, quoted an email from a “wise, conservative friend” of his. The launch of Fox was “great for journalism and great for the country,” this person said, but then Fox “sold their souls to … Trump and they’re too damn stupid to realize the damage they’ve done to the conservative cause they claim to espouse.”
That damage includes the Big Lie, hyped by some of Fox’s biggest stars, and now the subject of Dominion’s lawsuit…
A counterpoint about Fox’s loyal audience
The Dominion lawsuit is a legitimate and potentially very costly problem for Fox. But all the rest of the noise surrounding the network may be negligible. Fox viewers aren’t hearing analysis of Wallace’s exit or why it’s such a blow to the Fox brand. They aren’t hearing criticism of Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham’s urgent texts to Mark Meadows on 1/6. They are hearing that Liz Cheney and her Democrat friends are illegitimate. They are hearing that “cancel culture” forces are trying to hurt Fox. Think about it, what will Fox viewers remember about mid-December 2021? That a criminal tried to burn down Fox’s artificial Christmas tree. And that Fox proudly lit up a new tree the very next day.
Fox’s ratings tell the story: The biggest shows on Wednesday were “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” with 3.46 million viewers, and “The Five,” with 3.26 million. Both shows have more than ten times as many viewers as Newsmax at the same hour. If I know anything about Fox insiders, based on my reporting work for “Hoax,” they would say they are not having a bad week at all, they are having a very successful week…