Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News highlights former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s alleged influence over Fox News Channel’s (FNC) editorial control, reportedly urging the network to move away from former President Donald Trump.
Dominion filed the lawsuit months after the 2020 presidential election, asserting that FNC essentially suggested that Dominion rigged the voting systems, contributing to Trump’s loss.
“Fox, one of the most powerful media companies in the United States, give life to a manufactured storyline about election fraud that cast a then-libel known voting machine company called Dominion as the villain,” a copy of Dominion’s complaint reads, asserting that Fox News opted to place blame for former President Trump’s loss, in part, on Dominion. It surmises this was a strategic move as part of the company’s effort to lure viewers back to its network.
“Fox endorsed, repeated, and broadcast a series of verifiably false yet devastating lies about Dominion,” the complaint continues, listing a few of what it alleges are falsehoods — from claiming that “Dominion committee election fraud by rigging to 2020 Presidential election” to asserting that Dominion’s software and algorithms “manipulated vote counts,” concluding that Fox News “recklessly disregarded the truth.”
Fox News filed a motion to dismiss, as the company stood by its 2020 election coverage, deeming the lawsuit “baseless.”
However, a recent look at the lawsuit offers a glimpse behind the scenes at Fox News, including former House Speaker Paul Ryan — a member of Fox Corporation Board of Directors — and his influence over the channel’s editorial coverage.
A section of the lawsuit, titled “Concern About Fox’s Election Coverage and Fallout Rises to the Board Level” details Ryan’s level of influence on the channel’s editorial coverage:
On November 10-12, FC held an in-person Board meeting in Los Angeles. Scott flew out for it. Former Speaker of the House and FC Board Member Paul Ryan confirmed that all Board members and business unit leaders attended. … Ryan testified that it wouldn’t surprise me if they discussed the topic of FNN coverage of the election. … When asked whether the topic of Donald Trump spreading baseless election conspiracy theories came up, Ryan responded : This is November 11th, so it would surprise me if we were not talking about the news today. … And when asked whether the topic of FNN covering these conspiracies arose, Ryan testified: Not that I can recall but it’s not implausible at all.
According to the lawsuit, the Board also discussed “the future of cable and streaming services,” hearing presentations on Fox Nation that would, according to the lawsuit “Super-Serve & Expand Our Loyal Audience” and “keep” them in the “Fox News ecosystem.” Per the lawsuit, they discussed this in the context of Trump starting his own media empire as well.
The lawsuit asserts that Ryan “believed that the period immediately following the 2020 Presidential Election was a pretty important inflection point, not just for the company Fox, but for the country and for the conservative movement itself and shared this view as a fiduciary with Rupert and Lachlan.”
According to the lawsuit:
Q. And you thought it was in Fox News interest to separate out these fringe claims of voter fraud, correct? A. Yeah, that’s my fiduciary duty. ). He confirmed that the inflection point was not just one day; it was the whole time in the post-election November/December timeframe. Id. 277:17-25. Ryan knew that these conspiracy theories were baseless and that Fox should labor to dispel conspiracy theories if and when they pop 263:2 264:10. Ryan also understood that when events occur, Fox can clearly amplify that news being made by covering it. Id.36:23-37:13 . Ryan believed there ought to be a listing of all the allegations and then all the evidence or the validation or invalidation of those [election fraud] allegations just for the viewers sake, and suggested as much to Fox’s senior management .
“Ryan told Rupert and Lachlan ‘that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories,’” according to the lawsuit, pointing to the extent of Ryan’s influence on Fox News’s editorial coverage. Dominion claims Ryan “gave Lachlan and Rupert plenty of suggestions with respect to programming, as well as suggestions regarding content and show hosts.”
Further, Dominion alleges that Ryan encourage the Murdochs to move away from Trump altogether:
Ryan gave Lachlan and Rupert plenty of suggestions with respect to programming, as well as suggestions regarding content and show hosts. Id. 410 :8-22 . Specifically, he told the Murdochs that Fox should be pivoting at this key inflection point during November 2020 through January 2021 consistently advising them to move on from Donald Trump and stop spouting election lies.
Dominion’s allegations come as the company continues to face scrutiny for failing to disclose the conflict of interest — specifically, that Ryan is a member of the Fox Corporation Board of Directors — in the midst of its coverage of the former president.
As Breitbart News noted in November 2022, Fox News published a handful of articles about Ryan’s political views while failing to disclose his position of power at the company.
The establishment Republican, however, has only become more emboldened in his views, recently stating that will not attend the 2024 Republican National Convention if Trump emerges as the GOP nominee. Fox News covered this story as well on February 26, but once again, failed to identify the conflict of interest, with no mention of Paul’s status as a member of Fox Corp.’s board of directors.
The case is U.S. Dominion Inc. v. Fox News Network, No. N21C-11-082 in the Superior Court of Delaware.