Wilmington, Del. — Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems have agreed to a blockbuster settlement over the network’s coverage of former President Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
The settlement comes after months of courtroom fighting between the two parties in what had been widely seen as a precedent-setting moment for defamation law that could severely alter the financial and reputational health of the country’s largest cable news company.
The settlement, which came just hours before opening arguments in the defamation trial were slated to begin in a Delaware courtroom, shields Fox from what was likely to have been a grueling and potentially embarrassing span of several weeks focusing on its internal strife around the time of the 2020 election.
Details of the deal were not immediately disclosed, but Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson said the settlement was reached at around $787.5 million.
“The truth matters,” Nelson said during a press conference outside the packed Delaware courtroom. “Money is accountability and we got that today.”
Nelson did not say if an on-air apology or retraction would be coming from the network when asked repeatedly by reporters.
“Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my Company, our employees, and our customers. Nothing can ever make up for that,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said.
“Throughout this process, we have sought accountability and believe the evidence brought to light through this case underscores the consequences of spreading and endorsing lies.”
In a statement, Fox News Media said the network was “pleased” to reach a settlement and that it acknowledged “the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.”
“We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues,” the statement read.
Dominion initially sued Fox in 2021, contending the network knowingly aired false information about the voting machine company’s software that was being promoted by Trump and his allies.
The settlement figure falls short of the $1.6 billion the company had been demanding in its lawsuit. But the $787.5 million is far more than the $80 million valuation for which Dominion was acquired by a private equity group in 2018, according to a Fox filing.
Dominion said in an unsealed report that it sustained $921 million in damage to its business, $88 million in lost profits and $600 million in lost future profits due to Fox’s coverage.
A recent Fox Corporation filing showed the company had about $4.1 billion “of cash and cash equivalents” at the end of 2022, according to The New York Times.
Internal communications and depositions given to Dominion’s lawyers in recent months show top hosts and executives at Fox casting doubt internally on Trump’s claims while worrying over how fact checks might alienate the network’s audience.
Fox had argued in court filings and public statements that the comments of its employees made public by Dominion had been “cherry picked” while arguing the allegations made by Trump and his associates were newsworthy, so the network had a journalistic duty to present them to its audience — the widest in cable television.
Dominion’s lawsuit focuses on a number of claims made by Trump allies on Fox, including wild statements made by attorney Sidney Powell and others that Dominion had used software “at the direction” of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to swing the election against Trump.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis, who had been overseeing the case, earlier this month in sending the suit to trial ruled that the statements made by Trump’s associates in question were false. He also rejected Fox’s attempts to throw out Dominion’s claims ahead of bringing the case before a jury based on First Amendment privileges.
The revelations from the lawsuit so far have already created a smattering of embarrassing headlines for the cable network. Top host Tucker Carlson said in text messages that he hated Trump “passionately.”
Carlson and fellow prime-time host Sean Hannity had talked about getting Fox reporters fired for fact checking Trump. And Fox’s top talent is shown in text messages privately insulting Powell over the claims at the center of the suit.
During pre-trial hearings, Davis had indicated he would not stop Dominion from calling Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corp., to testify as a live in-person witness, potentially setting the stage for what would be a dramatic and unprecedented moment in American media history.
Some of Fox’s competitors were quick to jump on the news, with CNN’s Jake Tapper laughing while reading its statement on the settlement and calling it “one of the ugliest and most embarrassing moments in the history of journalism.”
Updated 6:21 p.m.