Dominion Voting Systems files massive $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News

Dominion's 139-page complaint cites numerous Fox News stars, including Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity

Published March 26, 2021 1:14PM (EDT)

Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Dominion Voting Systems, filed a hefty $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News on Friday morning over the cable network's repeated airing of half-baked conspiracy theories about Dominion somehow "rigging" the 2020 election. 

In the 139-page complaint, with hundreds of additional pages of exhibits, various current and former Fox News or Fox Business hosts are cited for floating false election fraud claims, including Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, and Maria Bartiromo. Dominion argues that by airing and entertaining such conspiracies, the network "recklessly disregarded the truth," which the technology company says was "good for Fox's business."

One key passage in the massive lawsuit document summarizes the case:

Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire. As the dominant media company among those viewers dissatisfied with the election results, Fox gave these fictions a prominence they otherwise would never have achieved. With Fox's global platform, an audience of hundreds of millions, and the inevitable and extensive republication and dissemination of the falsehoods through social media, these lies deeply damaged Dominion's once-thriving business.

The lawsuit further argues that Fox News "endorsed, repeated, and broadcast a series of verifiably false yet devastating lies about Dominion." The lawsuit also outlines the false and baseless claims repeatedly made by Fox News hosts and guests: "Dominion committed election fraud by rigging the 2020 Presidential Election; Dominion's software and algorithms manipulated vote counts in the 2020 Presidential Election; Dominion is owned by a company founded in Venezuela to rig elections for the dictator Hugo Chávez; Dominion paid kickbacks to government officials who used its machines in the 2020 Presidential Election." To be clear, there was never any evidence to support any such claims, as Fox News and other right-wing media companies have belatedly been forced to acknowledge. 

"The truth matters. Lies have consequences," Dominion's lawsuit against the cable giant continues. "Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does."

After the lawsuit was filed, Fox News Media released a statement, saying the network stood by its election coverage and would fight the case in court. "FOX News Media is proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism, and will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court," the company wrote in a statement obtained by Salon. 

As mentioned in the Dominion lawsuit, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, whose company is one of Fox's largest advertisers, appeared on Carlson's Jan. 26 primetime show to push false claims about the voting technology company. "After Fox stopped putting [Sidney] Powell and [Rudy] Giuliani on the air, Tucker Carlson and Fox knowingly broadcast lies about Dominion to a global audience by inviting Lindell on Tucker Carlson Tonight, where they knew he would repeat those lies in response to questions about why he had been banned from Twitter," the lawsuit states. "Fox and Carlson are no fools: they knew that interviewing Lindell about his Twitter ban would prompt Lindell to repeat the lies about Dominion to explain why he had been banned in the first place." In the weeks since that appearance, Lindell has grown increasingly angry with Fox News over the network's refusal to allow him to appear on its programs. 

Dominion's lawsuit marks the second voting technology company to sue Fox News over airing false claims about the 2020 election. Smartmatic, a separate company unrelated to Dominion — despite what conspiracy theorists have claimed — filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against the cable news behemoth at the beginning of February, alleging similar levels of harm. "Fox is responsible for this disinformation campaign, which has damaged democracy worldwide and irreparably harmed Smartmatic and other stakeholders who contribute to modern elections," Smartmatic stated after filing its lawsuit.

Fox News has since filed four motions to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit, calling it "meritless." "If the First Amendment means anything, it means that Fox cannot be held liable for fairly reporting and commenting on competing allegations in a hotly contested and actively litigated election," the network wrote in a statement accompanying those motions to dismiss. In December, before either of the voting technology companies had filed their suits, Fox News aired multiple segments aimed at debunking the baseless "machine fraud" claims repeatedly made on its own programs. Fox News anchor Eric Shawn also interviewed Dominion spokesperson Michael Steel in November, who debunked the election fraud claims. It appears that was too little, too late. 

By Zachary Petrizzo

Zachary Petrizzo was an investigative reporter at Salon. Follow him on Twitter @ZTPetrizzo.

MORE FROM Zachary Petrizzo