Rupert Murdoch, who recently stepped down from his role as chairman of Fox Corp and News Corp, is back in the spotlight — set to be deposed by Smartmatic’s lawyers as part of the voting technology company’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News.
Murdoch’s deposition is taking place today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday) in Los Angeles, as reported by Reuters.
Once again, Murdoch will be questioned about the conduct of his news networks and its personalities–Fox News hosts Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs–during the 2020 presidential election, whereby under his watch, they pushed the false narrative that the election was “stolen” by current President Joe Biden from then-President Donald Trump, and that Smartmatic’s election tech software flipped votes in Biden’s favor.
Also included in the Smartmatic lawsuit are Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who were acting as attorneys on behalf of Trump and made numerous appearances on Fox News pushing that stolen election narrative.
Fox has been pushing back against this latest lawsuit brought on by Smartmatic by filing a counterclaim that said, “This lawsuit strikes at the heart of the news media’s First Amendment mission and right to inform on matters of public interest. Not only is Smartmatic advancing novel defamation theories that lack any grounding in law, but Smartmatic’s staggering damages claim is divorced from reality and serves no apparent purpose other than to generate speech-chilling headlines.”
Needless to say, this isn’t Murdoch’s first rodeo. The last time he sat for a deposition was during the Dominion Voting Systems $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, which Fox Corp ended up settling in April for $787.5 million. It was the largest-ever defamation settlement publicly announced by an American media company.
During that deposition, Murdoch acknowledged that some Fox News and Fox Business personalities pushed the narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Biden. Murdoch acknowledged that Sean Hannity, Pirro, Bartiromo, and Dobbs endorsed the false claims and shared them with their respective audiences. Earlier in the deposition, Murdoch did, however, push back on the assertion that all of Fox was pushing the false narrative, instead seemingly pinning it on a few hosts. “Not Fox, No. Not Fox. But maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria, as commentators,” said Murdoch.
Murdoch did show some remorse for how the news network handled the situation, saying, “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight.”
Representatives for Fox News and Rupert Murdoch did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment about the deposition. A representative for Fox Corp declined to comment to Reuters.
Fox has had to deal with several lawsuits in 2023, not limited to Dominion and Smartmatic. There’s one from Jason Donner, a former Fox News reporter who is suing the network for retaliation and defamation also stemming from the post-2020 election drama. Then, there’s the lawsuit from Ray Epps, who is accusing Fox News and its former primetime host Tucker Carlson of promoting a lie also tied to the post-election chaos. Epps alleges that Carlson falsely made him out to be an undercover government agent who instigated the January 6, 2021 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol in an effort to disparage then-President Trump and his supporters.
Back in June, Fox News settled with former producer Abby Grossberg after she filed two separate complaints about the cable news titan. She claimed that in September 2022, during preparations for her pre-trial deposition as part of the Dominion case, Fox lawyers coerced her into giving misleading testimony, coaching her in a way where she would avoid mentioning the names of prominent on-air talent and male executives, shielding them from any blame when it came to the matter of how Fox News covered false claims about the 2020 presidential election.
In response to her claim, a Fox News spokesperson stated, “The assertion that Ms. Grossberg was coached or intimidated into being dishonest during her Dominion deposition is patently false. We will continue to vigorously defend Fox against her unmeritorious legal claims, which are riddled with false allegations against the network and our employees.”
Grossberg also accused the network of sexism and, in her lawsuit, claimed that she passed over for a top job on Bartiromo’s Fox News Sunday show because the network preferred it be filled by a male.