Jon Stewart and Law Professor RonNell Anderson Jones break down the legal and other ramifications of the bombshell Dominion defamation brief that exposed Fox News’ Big Lies about the Big Lies of the 2020 presidential election.
Anderson Jones is a professor of law at the University of Utah and an affiliated fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project. Her University of Utah bio states that she “researches the intersection between the media and the courts and the role of a free press in a democracy. Her scholarship addresses issues of press access, defamation actions against the media, journalism as a check on government, and emerging areas of social media law.”
In other words, she was a perfect guest for a discussion of Dominion Voting System’s recent legal brief that provided an abundance of evidence that Fox News’ top hosts and executives lied to their viewers when they promoted claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. The brief was filed in support of Dominion’s motion for summary judgment in its $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News. The case is scheduled to go to trial in mid-April - that is, if summary judgment is not granted or if the case does not settle before then.
As another legal expert told 60 Minutes, Anderson Jones also noted that despite the difficulty of proving defamation cases, Dominion’s case is especially strong. She called it “far and away the most evidentiary-supported claim" that she's ever seen in a major media case. She said that most cases like this usually settle, because they are so hard to prove, and often it’s not “knowing falsity” but that a media outlet should have known that what they were airing or publishing was false. “This is not that,” she said. “This is direct evidence of knowing falsity.”
The case is such a slam dunk, Anderson Jones believes, that it would make an exam too easy if she used the same fact pattern with her students.
“The likelihood that you will find evidence of them saying, ‘We know this is a lie and we would like to move forward with it anyway,’ is deeply unlikely,” Anderson Jones continued. Yet Dominion has a “trove of evidence of emails and text messages and internal memos” that also show the explicit motive of helping Republicans. She highlighted Rupert Murdoch’s statement, on page 34, “Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can. … Everything at stake here.” He was referring to the upcoming Georgia run-off that would determine control of the U.S. Senate.
Stewart and Anderson Jones also discussed the broader implications of the case in the context of the right-wing effort to loosen libel laws against the media. If Fox takes this case to the Supreme Court, which Stewart assumes will happen if they lose, “this puts Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch and the others who seek to weaken defamation laws in a very strange position,” Stewart said, meaning their zeal for weakening protections for the media would butt up against damaging the prime engine of their right-wing propaganda.
I highly recommend watching the whole discussion, posted February 22, 2023 on YouTube by The Problem with Jon Stewart.