The 92-year-old Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch took a direct role in how the news channel called the 2020 US election for Joe Biden over Donald Trump, the Guardian said citing newly unredacted messages.
Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems are embroiled in a $1.6bn defamation case where the latter alleged that the broadcaster knowingly spread false claims about Dominion Voting Systems’ voting machines during the 2020 US Presidential Election Results day.
“It would be great if we call it for Biden as soon as he gets over, say, 35,000 ahead in Pennsylvania,” Murdoch wrote, the Guardian said, to network’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott on November 6.
This was three days after the election day but one day before Pennsylvania showed then US president-elect Joe Biden leading then US-President Donald Trump.
“Whenever we do it, it will all be over. Regardless of Arizona,” the memos quoted Murdoch as saying. The call of Arizona for Biden angered the network’s mostly conservative supporters and also Trump supporters.
Murdoch also had an expletive-ridden response when author Michael Wolff reported that Trump was furious over the Arizona call. Wolff said Murdoch responded with his “signature grunt” and said: “Fuck him.”
The son-in-law of the former president in his memoir also said that Murdoch told him that “it is not even close” and the numbers are “ironclad”, referring to the votes amassed by Joe Biden.
It was also revealed through the emails that Murdoch noted the commitment shown by the former president to push the claims of large-scale electoral fraud and asked the network then to call the election when Biden would up by “50,000 in Pennsylvania” but insert a caveat and say that the call was “subject to litigation”.
Fox called Pennsylvania for Biden when he was around 35,000 votes ahead of Trump and 10 minutes after other networks.
“Keep in mind the Trump campaign is in the midst of waging legal challenges in several states. But the path is clear for the new president-elect,” the anchor hosting the segment, Martha MacCallum, told viewers, according to the Guardian.
Murdoch also said that Trump attorney and former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani was being a bad advisor to the former president because the claims of electoral fraud lacked real evidence.
“But he’s got to get some real evidence… Fact that Rudy is advising really bad,” Murdoch wrote in an email accessed by the Guardian.
Dominion has to prove Fox News hosts and executives knowingly broadcasted electoral fraud claims despite knowing they were untrue. Their filing alleges primetime stars Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham did not do enough to denounce Trump’s allegations as their network kept broadcasting Trump’s claims.
The filing also points to the role played by anchor Jeanine Pirro who ignored the fact check and discussed on air the so-called Dominion conspiracy theory, involving Venezuelan influence and Cuban money.
She, citing Guiliani, alleged that ‘crooked Democrats’ stole votes. When aspects of the coverage and her opening dialog of the show was highlighted she refused to change it despite the fact check. The inconsistency was highlighted by a senior executive.
Another filing showed that Fox News producers were concerned about losing their core audience. Scott told producers that there was anger regarding the Arizona call.
“(There was) intense anger over our AZ call… A trust has been broken and it’s our job to help them through this to the other side with strong reporting, investigative pieces and certainly speaking to the audience with respect is critical,” Scott wrote in an email to producers.
The senior vice-president of Fox Corporation Raj Shah sent a memo to Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son saying: “Fox News is facing a brand crisis, with viewers upset and online activists in open revolt of Fox’s handling of election night coverage last week and certain programming decisions since.”
Shah said that the effect of this will not fade on its own and will linger on for “weeks or months” and pose a threat to the Fox News brand and should be effectively addressed.
Fox News challenged Dominion’s claim by citing that the voting machine supplier is using “cherry picked quotes” without context and is trying to generate headlines.
It also said that the news content aired by them were newsworthy allegations reasonable viewers would have understood and they were not shown as factual statements.
Fox is saying that the press freedom and right to a free press is at stake. “(Fox News) will continue to fiercely advocate for the first amendment in protecting the role of news organisations to cover the news,” the organisation said.
Read all the Latest News here