Fox denied that it violated federal campaign finance laws after Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted under oath that he shared information about a Biden campaign ad with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
A court filing submitted last week as part of Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion dollar defamation lawsuit against Fox News said that Murdoch had shared confidential information with White House adviser Jared Kushner during the 2020 presidential campaign.
The document, which alleged that Murdoch provided Kushner "with Fox confidential information about Biden's ads, along with debate strategy (providing Kushner a preview of Biden's ads before they were public)," sparked criticism and complaints from watchdogs that the move may have violated Federal Election Commission rules around non-monetary campaign contributions.
On Tuesday, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis unsealed the filing, which revealed that Murdoch admitted to Dominion's lawyers during the deposition that he was "trying to help Mr. Kushner" by sharing information about the ad.
Murdoch in the deposition denied that he provided Kushner with previews of ads set to air on the network but in messages included in the filing appeared to give Kushner advice on Trump's ad strategy.
"He's a friend of mine," Murdoch said, referring to Kushner.
"You were trying to help the Trump campaign by giving him a preview of the Biden campaign's ads before it was public?" the Dominion lawyer asked.
"Right," Murdoch answered. "I guess so."
Fox, which did not comment on the filing previously, told The Daily Beast that Murdoch did share a Biden ad with Kushner but said that it was already publicly available.
"Mr. Murdoch forwarded an already-publicly available Biden campaign ad which was available on YouTube and had even run on public airwaves," the spokesperson told the outlet, adding that Dominion had been "caught red handed" inserting "distortions and misinformation" into its lawsuit. The spokesperson accused the company of trying to "smear" the network and said the lawsuit would "trample on free speech and freedom of the press."
The Daily Beast said it was not able to identify which Biden ad Fox was referencing.
Progressive watchdog groups Media Matters and End Citizens United PAC filed complaints to the FEC last week. Media Matters accused Murdoch of making "an illegal corporate in-kind contribution," adding that his "secret conveyance of the Biden advertisement is even less like press activity than a cablecasting company sending campaign flyers in its bills — and neither can be protected by the press exemption."
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"Fox Corporation, through Murdoch, appears to have engaged in the exact type of campaign activity to which the Commission has repeatedly affirmed the press exemption does not apply. Therefore, Fox Corporation cannot try to exploit the press exemption to avoid the consequences of making an illegal corporate in-kind contribution," Media Matters wrote in its filing.
"Respondent's actions are not only an egregious violation of the Act and the Commission's regulations, but also a nefarious attempt by people in power to operate a press entity as a political organization, in blatant disregard of the rules that govern our elections and democracy." the complaint continued.
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone did not seem deterred by Fox's latest comment, however, telling The Daily Beast that the media company should plan to "save it for the FEC."
"It's Rupert Murdoch's own words and acknowledgment," Carusone told the outlet. "I would add that it's a little weird that this is what Fox News' PR shop is choosing to focus on tonight given the tome documenting Fox misdeeds that have been exposed."
End Citizens United argued that Fox did not deny that Murdoch shared information about other confidential ads and said the denial did not rule out that the Fox boss may have shared other non-public details about the ad.
"The trove of documents and the legal proceedings are clear: Fox has lied about the facts from day one and lacks credibility," Bawadden Sayed, a spokesperson for End Citizens United, told Salon. "The fact is that court documents revealed that Mr. Murdoch took confidential information about Biden's ads and shared them with the Trump campaign in a partisan manner. They also shared information about debate strategy. This had nothing to do with legitimate press activities. It amounts to an illegal corporate contribution. "There's more than enough evidence for the FEC to begin an investigation, and we're confident that they'll find reason to believe Fox and the Trump campaign broke the law."
Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director at campaign finance watchdog Documented, told The Daily Beast that if the video was indeed public, it could undercut the complaints.
"Murdoch himself admits that he was trying to help the Trump campaign," he said. "But if all Murdoch did was share a publicly available Biden ad, then he's not providing much of value."
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