The Dominion lawsuit against Fox News, which Fox just settled for $787.5 million, is being held up by Fox’s competitors as proof that Rupert Murdoch’s network is Fake News.
Because in discovery for its lawsuit, Dominion Voting Systems obtained text messages and emails from a variety of Fox News hosts, personalities, and producers and discovered that a number of the stars of the network had doubted the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud in 2020 while saying something different on air.
This is supposed to prove hypocrisy or dishonesty or both.
But hold on for a hot cable-TV minute!
Weren’t the Fox people doing exactly what news people are supposed to do? Separating their personal opinions from how they cover a news story?
Isn’t the alternative much worse? That a news reporter, anchor, or producer would only cover stories that they personally agreed with? That the preconceived ideas of a reporter would shut down coverage of any stories that don’t fit those preconceived ideas? Or worse yet, that fear of being wrong dissuaded reporters or news organizations from covering stories of huge public concern like a stolen election.
And if the nabobs on CNN and MSNBC are celebrating the so-called “hypocrisy” of Fox personalities like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, haven’t we known for years that the liberal networks are the ones that have made a habit of telling only half the story – the half they agree with? What about the massive coverup in liberal media sources about the Hunter Biden laptop? What about the insistence of Rachel Maddow and her colleagues that the fake Russian dossier proved Donald Trump was unfit for office? They refused to cover any evidence that poked holes in their narrative, and instead just reported what they wanted to be true.
Think of it this way. What’s worse? A reporter who suspects that an argument of election fraud is false but presents it to the public anyway in an excess of caution, or a reporter who believes there is no election fraud and therefore refuses to report allegations of same. In the first case, the reporter allows the readers or viewers to make up their own minds. In the latter, the reporter decides to withhold the evidence based on his or her own hunch or bias and thus deprives the audience of information that is still in dispute.
When you consider those scenarios, just keep in mind that the election fraud may be real. Sooner or later, it will be real. There is no universe where politicians never plot how to win elections illegally. And it is the job of real journalists to uncover such fraud by asking questions and pursuing allegations wherever they lead. Fake news, on the other hand, says the less we know the better, and in case you didn’t guess, that refers to CNN, NBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among many others. And those are the very organizations chortling with glee because Fox News hosts had the audacity to question the Trump election narrative even while still covering the story.
But despite Fox’s decision to settle the defamation case brought by Dominion for an exorbitant amount, there is plenty of reason to question the liberal narrative that Fox’s hosts somehow did something wrong.
Consider the evidence that is supposed to prove that Fox News is a corrupt organization that willfully misled the public. In a nearly 200-page filing in Delaware Superior Court, Dominion’s lawyers amassed text messages and emails from Fox personalities that showed they had doubts about the claims of election fraud being aired on the network. Supposedly these private messages contradict on-air claims, and thus proved guilt of actual malice, which would be required to win a defamation lawsuit against a public figure.
“Sidney Powell is lying,” host Tucker Carlson famously told his producer privately after an interview he did with the attorney who claimed to have evidence of a global conspiracy to tamper with the 2020 election.
Well, good for him. He’s not the only one who had doubts about Powell’s veracity. In a column I wrote on Nov. 20, 2020, I described the feud between Carlson and Powell and warned conservatives not to trust Powell’s claims without corroboration. I showed how Powell continuously treated Dominion Voting Systems and its electronic-voting competitor, Smartmatic, as if they were interchangeable when they were not, and how the very affidavit she published as evidence raised important doubts about her legal acumen.
But that didn’t mean she should be ignored. Put her on the air, ask her questions, raise doubts and let the public decide. That’s basically what Fox News did. What really drives the liberal pundits mad isn’t that Carlson called Powell a liar; it’s that he has given airtime to the Jan. 6 protesters and to election fraud theories. They don’t care about Dominion; they just don’t want anyone to question the legitimacy of the Biden administration.
Yet what the gloating panels on CNN and MSNBC don’t acknowledge is that the so-called conspiracy theories on Fox and other conservative outlets were brought about by the utter mismanagement of the 2020 election at many levels. Don’t forget that Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and several other states suddenly stopped counting votes on election night and, in some cases, for days to come. There were also hundreds of contemporaneous complaints of polling place violations that involved shutting out election monitors, counting ballots without signature verification, and electronic irregularities that still have not been explained. Then you have the massive expenditure by Facebook tech lord Mark Zuckerberg to get out the vote in heavily Democratic precincts while being entirely unconcerned about lagging turnout in Republican areas.
Under those circumstances, it was not irresponsible for Fox News or anyone else to ask questions about ballot counting, including about the machines used to tabulate votes. Indeed, it would have been irresponsible to assume that there was “nothing to see here” or that we had just witnessed “the most secure election” in American history.
But no one at Fox had an obligation to believe either that Dominion had rigged the vote or that Dominion was pure as the driven snow. It shouldn’t have mattered what the reporters, producers, or hosts believed personally. As a longtime newspaper editor, I often had to caution young reporters that their opinions were irrelevant and that it was their job to convey the stories and opinions of others, so that the readers could make up their own minds. Unfortunately, that credo is honored more in the breach than the observation these days, especially on cable news.
Of course, Fox News is not a monolithic organization, and there were a variety of viewpoints represented on the staff about the election. Host Neil Cavuto famously turned off coverage of a Kaleigh McEnany press conference from the White House when she accused Democrats of “welcoming fraud and … welcoming illegal voting.” Cavuto said he couldn’t “in good countenance” allow McEnany to make the accusations without providing details and so he shut her down.
That was the last straw for me and thousands of other Fox viewers who shut off Cavuto in response. As I noted in a column at the time, “censoring the news and preventing one side of a story from being told violates the very central premise of reporting.” The allegations of election fraud in 2020 were rapidly becoming the story of the century, and it was incumbent on all journalists to cover it without fear or favor.
But Fox News certainly didn’t do so. Despite the lawsuit, there were many instances of Fox hosts and reporters throwing shade on Trump and his lawyers. Cavuto wasn’t the only Fox broadcaster who hushed up news about election fraud. As Salon magazine reported, “Executives and producers also expressed concerns about claims pushed by host Jeanine Pirro, going as far as canceling one of her episodes over concerns that ‘her guests are all going to say the election is being stolen.’ Fox News producer Justin Wells said that the episode was canceled because ‘she was being crazy,’ according to the filing.”
Again, these kinds of reports are taken as evidence that Fox News did something wrong – that because some staff members didn’t believe in the election fraud narrative, it was improper for any of them to report on it. It seems to me like evidence of the exact opposite – that the network erred on the side of Dominion Voting Systems on multiple occasions and stopped pursuing evidence that the election was rigged.
If Fox News should be sued by anyone, it’s the viewers who were cheated of their expectation that Fox was the one place where they could count on “fair and balanced” reporting. Instead, they got the same old politically correct formula of doing the least possible to satisfy a conservative audience while avoiding legitimate investigative reporting that might blow up the power structure in Washington, D.C. Thanks for nothing.
Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics. His newest book, “What Matters Most: God, Country, Family and Friends,” is available from his Amazon author page. Visit him at HeartlandDiaryUSA.com or follow him on Facebook @HeartlandDiaryUSA or on Twitter or Gettr @HeartlandDiary. This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.
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