In his report on the settlement of Dominion’s defamation case against Fox News, “media critic” Howard Kurtz left out the part that top Fox personnel were caught promoting “election fraud” lies they all knew were not true.
Kurtz appeared with the breaking news of yesterday’s sudden settlement on Fox News’ Your World show. In a later appearance on Special Report, Kurtz claimed he had been unable to “independently confirm” what other outlets were reporting was a huge settlement of $787.5 million.
Clearly, Fox was anxious to settle this case in order to avoid future embarrassment of having Rupert Murdoch, Tucker Carlson and others testify under oath that they had spread lies about the 2020 election for the sake of their pocketbooks – and demanded that others lie, too. The settlement also allowed Fox to avoid a judicial investigation into whether the network had deliberately hidden evidence it was obligated to provide.
But Kurtz distorted the reality in the best Fox News fashion. He read a Fox statement that said, “We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion voting systems. We’ve acknowledged the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”
That last sentence has just been proved as false as Fox’s Big Lies about the 2020 election. But Kurtz went along with it.
He went on to suggest Fox was the big victim in the case. He said, “A lot of people in the mainstream media, anti-Fox, rooting for Fox to lose, they’re now going to be deprived that opportunity, and the rest of us get to go home.” Kurtz had a little smile as he said that.
Kurtz went on to acknowledge that Fox had aired false claims but he also promoted Fox's defense - which the Dominion judge had completely destroyed in his ruling on summary judgement.
KURTZ: I do think the statement I just read about acknowledging certain claims were wrong, this had to do with the idea that Dominion voting machines, and former President Trump and his allies made this case on Fox and elsewhere were somehow stealing votes from Donald Trump and flipping them to Joe Biden. That’s obviously false. … The case would have revolved around whether Fox had done due diligence, whether it was reckless, whether it was simply reporting as the network contends, on an extremely newsworthy matter.
FACT CHECK: Judge Eric Davis specifically smacked down Fox’s “simply reporting” argument. From NPR:
Citing shows of Fox's Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro from late 2020, for example, Davis wrote that guests and their outlandish accusations were more than simply relayed: the network repeatedly granted them credibility and even affirmed them.
"The context in which the Statement is presented creates an inference to a reasonable viewer that it is factual," Davis wrote. "When viewed in the full context of the overall communication expressed during the segment, a reasonable viewer would understand that the Statement is asserting facts regarding Dominion, not an opinion."
This is not the first time Kurtz has disingenuously reported on the Dominion case. After seeming to protest Fox’s edict that he not discuss the case, Kurtz did so in March – only to defend the network.
Meanwhile, Smartmatic’s similar defamation case, for $2.7 billion, is very much alive. A spokesperson for Smartmatic said in a statement yesterday, “Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign. Smartmatic will expose the rest.”
You can watch Kurtz whitewash Fox’s wrongdoing and its huge settlement below, from the April 18, 2023 Your World, via Media Matters.
Kurtz puts on a façade of fairness, as though the dishonest deserve equal time with the honest, as though Fox and Dominion were equally worried about their chances of prevailing in court. Although not stated explicitly, the implication was that, soft peddling the money aspect, the settlement was some kind of draw, no harm no foul (either to Dominion or to the USA), ‘amicable’ as the official Fox statement had it. Kurtz culminates with Fox’s red herrings re: due diligence and newsworthiness.
If Dominion vote-flipping was “obviously false”, as Kurtz nonchalantly observes, Fox’s recklessness was therefore equally obvious. Little of the usual, effortful due diligence was necessary. The ‘diligence’ lacking at Fox was more about journalistic ethics than journalistic effort.
The Dominion vote-flipping claim per se was newsworthy only in the most degraded tabloid sense (THIS is the standard Fox “continues to be committed to”). What raised the story to true newsworthiness was to also report the context that it was a huge claim inversely proportional to the evidence for it, one of the few fraud claims truly befitting the scale of The Big Lie.
That’s fine with me.
The truth is in the judge’s comments. Anyone who can read knows the real story.