A court filing from Dominion Voting Systems, the company currently suing Fox News for defamation, says that Fox News’s leading pundits— Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity— as well as numerous other employees of Fox News, were aware that claims being spread on the network alleging that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump were illegitimate and lacked merit.
The filing states, "privately, Fox's hosts and executives knew that Donald Trump lost the election and that he needed to concede. But Fox viewers heard a different story — repeatedly," and alleges that Fox intentionally spread misleading information about election results after receiving backlash from viewers and other right-rated media for announcing Joe Biden had won in Arizona.
Carlson is quoted telling Sidney Powell, a Trump attorney who repeatedly claimed the election had been stolen from Trump on Fox News programs, “you’ve convinced them that Trump will win. If you don’t have conclusive evidence of fraud at that scale, it’s a cruel and reckless thing to keep saying.” Carlson later texts fellow host Ingraham, stating that “Sidney Powell is lying by the way” Ingraham is quoted as calling Powell “a bit nuts.” Regarding Powell’s claims of election fraud, Hannity stated he “did not believe it for one second.”
“There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan,” the network said.
How the Media Covered It (or Didn’t)
Left- and center-rated outlets covered the news prominently from a number of angles:
Slate (Left Bias) focused on revelations surrounding Carlson’s text messages included in the filing, in which he expressed fear that telling the truth would hurt the network’s ratings and enrage Trump, texting his producer that “what [Trump]’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
ABC News (Lean Left Bias) reported that the filing “lays bare a panic at the network that it had alienated its viewers and damaged its brand by not lining up with President Donald Trump's false claims.”
A Mediaite (Lean Left Bias) report echoed this, quoting a Republican strategist stating, “we learned in the text messages that they live in fear of their audience and they live in fear of Donald Trump.”
The Hill (Center Bias) called the court filing “explosive” in its headline, an example of another type of bias, sensationalism. The article highlights details in the filing, such as Carlson attempting to get a Fox reporter fired for fact checking a tweet from Trump, and Fox leadership acting out of fear of competition from other networks on the right.
Despite Fox’s immense role in the conservative world, AllSides found very little original reporting on the news from right-rated outlets.
Reason (Lean Right Bias) and The Dispatch (Lean Right Bias) were the only right-rated outlets AllSides found with original coverage on the story. Breitbart News (Right Bias) and Washington Times (Lean Right Bias) reposted coverage from the Associated Press (Lean Left Bias), but did not conduct their own reporting or research.
This is an example of bias by omission, a common type of media bias. This occurs when sources opt not to cover certain stories, or omit information and voices that would support an alternative perspective.
The article in The Dispatch stated, “there has been a proliferation of partisan news networks in the last decade, and the competition didn’t exactly bring out the best in everyone, journalistically. Fox was losing viewers to Newsmax.”
The coverage from Reason offered a detailed timeline of each pundit's statements regarding election claims, as well as accounts of internal discussions at Fox acknowledging the danger of spreading the unfounded theories.
One could argue that by ignoring this story, right-rated outlets did a disservice to their audiences and the greater conservative media ecosystem. Because Fox and many other right-rated sources didn’t report on this, the people who it was most relevant to – conservative readers – likely saw little to nothing about it.
Last year, a statement from Fox about the lawsuit said the network is “confident we will prevail as freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be protected, in addition to the damages claims being outrageous, unsupported and not rooted in sound financial analysis, serving as nothing more than a flagrant attempt to deter our journalists from doing their jobs.”
Under this belief, Fox and others may think the lawsuit and details from it aren’t worth covering. But readers who rely on them for news still missed out on an important story, and an opportunity to hold their media accountable.
In an era when trust in journalism is at an all time low, ignoring stories such as this serves only to further deteriorate trust in media and decay one of the fundamental pillars of a healthy democratic society— a reliable free press.
Isaiah Anthony is a News Curator for AllSides. He has a Center bias.
This blog was reviewed and edited by Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), News Editor Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias) and CEO John Gable (Lean Right bias).