Will Fox News pay a hefty bill for giving credence to the bogus theory of a rigged US presidential election in 2020? Jury selection is due to begin on Thursday at the trial of the Tory flagship, which is being sued by an electronic voting machine company.
“The stakes are very high for Fox News. If it is found guilty of defamation, the channel could potentially have to pay around a billion dollars,” summarizes Nicole Hemmer, associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University and media specialist, to AFP. p>
“It's not enough to put her out of business, but enough to have real effects on her future plans and overall financial health,” she adds of tycoon Rupert Murdoch's pearl of empire, sounding board for the ideological battles of the conservatives.
In total, Dominion Voting Systems, which operated in 28 states during the 2020 election, is seeking $ 1.6 billion in damages in a civil court in the state of Delaware (east) from the chain la most watched American cable and its parent company, Fox Corporation.
A staggering amount, but according to her, up to the damage for being featured on Fox News as “the villain” in a “fabricated story” after Donald Trump's lost 2020 presidential election, she wrote in her complaint.
In a tense atmosphere, Donald Trump accused the Biden camp of all kinds of fraud without proof. His advisers, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, pointed the finger at Dominion on Fox News, presenting the company as linked to the regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
The lawsuit will be followed closely in the United States, where it is seen as a test for freedom of expression, protected by the first amendment of the Constitution, but also for the fight against disinformation.
The case is deemed strong and the company has already won a round when Judge Eric Davis said in a March 31 order that it was “crystal clear that no assertion about Dominion during the 2020 election (was) true.”
But media convictions for defamation are rare in the United States, because the plaintiff must establish a willful intent to spread false information for the purpose of harm.
The jury will have to decide unanimously to find Fox News guilty, after hearings which should see the main stars of the channel testify. Dominion Voting Systems also called Fox Corporation founder Rupert Murdoch, 92, and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch, as witnesses.
< p>Regularly accused of being a sounding board for conspiracy theories, Fox News wants to make the trial an emblematic case for freedom of the press.
For the chain, it was legitimate to give the floor to the Trump camp when he contested the vote and “essential for the search for the truth” to let all parties express themselves.
But the case has gave rise to an embarrassing unpacking for Fox News, with the publication of exchanges of e-mails or text messages showing that within the chain and its parent company Fox Corporation, there was little belief in the scenario of a rigged election, until 'to big boss Rupert Murdoch.
A 'really crazy thing. And damaging,” he wrote in an email titled “Watching Giuliani!” to Fox News boss Suzanne Scott.
The numerous messages, obtained as part of the procedure and also from stars of the channel, such as Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham, are at the heart of the plaintiff's argument, according to which Fox News was lying on purpose, so as not to lose its viewers.
The channel accuses on the contrary, Dominion Voting Systems for having made a truncated and biased selection.
Jury selection must be completed this week, before the debates really begin on Monday.