Fox News is reeling, both financially and with respect to its talent, after being drawn into a long lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems.
The network just settled for an astounding $787.5 million and soon after released Tucker Carlson, the network’s highest-rated host.
The voting machine company had alleged some of Fox’s hosts had either promulgated, or allowed their guests to push, a false narrative that the corporation’s voting machines were “fixed” and misreported the vote count in some precincts of the 2020 presidential election.
In other words, Dominion walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars on the accusation that some raving guests and a few Fox journalists insinuated, falsely, that the machines had thrown the election to Joe Biden.
Yet no one argues that such post facto accusations influenced the election. The postelection dispute instead was over whether a news organization was responsible for all that its hundreds of guests and hosts say that proved later to be not substantiated, false, or defamatory.
Fox settled with Dominion reportedly to avoid messy revelations of its internal texts and to stop the hemorrhaging of its brand.
But by doing so, the network may have inadvertently set a dubious standard that any speculative opinion, voiced in public media, however nutty and later proven to be inaccurate, will be actionable.
If that is the standard, we are going to see a lot more costly lawsuits.
Compare Dominion’s writ with the twin “Russian collusion” and “Russian disinformation” hoaxes.
Lots of journalists and guests on network news, cable, public broadcasting, and internet news sites ran daily with the utter lie that the concocted Christopher Steele dossier was accurate.
Four years later, they were still claiming that Donald Trump had won the 2016 election only by enlisting the aid of the Russians – as an “asset” and puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
All that was demonstrably untrue.
No one on these news shows ever produced any information validating the dossier, much less offered apologies to those whose lives they ruined, as in the case of Lt. General Michael Flynn and Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
The steady two-year drumbeat of media and DNC-fabricated untruths neutered the first two years of the Trump Administration.
Robert Mueller’s $40 million, 22-month special counsel “investigation” leaked wild and lurid rumors of Trump indictments to come, and yet ultimately found no proof of collusion.
No matter. The agendas of the Democratic Party’s collaboration with the media were fulfilled. The Trump Administration was wounded, forced on defense to reply to countless new fabrications, and smeared to the point of caricature.
The incumbent president went into the 2020 election crippled by years of media-voiced lies about collusion. Given all that, did these miscreants learn anything the second time around?
No. They redoubled their efforts. This time, the new farce was “Russian disinformation” even as the playbook of smearing remained the same.
First, once again, the Left enlisted the media. It helped to spread the lie that Hunter Biden’s incriminating laptop was a product of “Russian disinformation” aimed at helping Donald Trump.
Second, once more, the FBI helped to further what the agency knew was a lie. So the agency allegedly either persuaded or paid social media companies in Silicon Valley to suppress news that pointed to an authentic Biden laptop – whose contents revealed embarrassing details about Joe Biden’s (“The Big Guy”) apparent quid pro quo profiteering with foreign nations.
Twitter was hired as a news suppressor. The FBI paid the company $3.5 million to suss out “disinformation,” even though the agency claims it only paid for information requests, not to censor information.
Joe Biden’s campaign operative, current Secretary of State Antony Blinken, tapped former interim CIA Director Mike Morell on the eve of the 2020 presidential debate to round up 50 former senior intelligence officials.
The “experts” publicly promulgated the lie that the laptop “bears the hallmarks of Russian disinformation.” Then, as planned, Biden in the debate used the experts’ phony consensus — dreamed up by his own campaign team — to play the victim of Trump/Russian disinformation.
He blasted Trump as a demagogue who unfairly had suggested Biden and his family were trading influence for cash.
One conservative poll suggested that the farce influenced enough voters to have changed the election. Again, no one has apologized — not the current secretary of state, not the former interim CIA Director, not the 50 experts who signed the bogus letter.
Massaging a U.S. election by conspiring to concoct a disinformation campaign must be as actionable as Dominion’s post-election claim of $787.5 million in damages.
Did not Twitter, the FBI, CNN, and MSNBC knowingly try to influence an election by spreading what they must have known was an absurd lie?
Almost no one after the election swallowed the notion that Dominion had rigged its voting machines. But millions before the election may have been swayed by the Biden campaign and the media-generated lie that the authentic Biden laptop was part of a Russian intelligence operation.
And that lie, unlike the Dominion charge of postelection defamation, might have changed history.
Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won,” from Basic Books. You can reach him by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.