Former prosecutor says Fox News faces "financial death penalty": The damages could be "astronomical"

"Fox is now trapped in an ever-worsening spiral of lies of its own creation," former prosecutor says

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published March 13, 2023 3:15PM (EDT)

Rupert Murdoch at the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 10, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho.  (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Rupert Murdoch at the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 10, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit could result in the "financial death penalty" for Fox News, according to former attorney and MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang.

Phang in an opinion piece published over the weekend warned that the "true cost" of the voting machine company's could be much higher than the $1.6 billion it is seeking in compensatory damages.

"In the Dominion versus Fox News defamation case, Fox is now trapped in an ever-worsening spiral of lies of its own creation. Time and time again, Fox allegedly trafficked in lies and falsehoods. And the result just might be a financial death penalty for the network," wrote Phang, who has over 25 years of experience as an ex-prosecutor. "As we've seen put forth in the thousands upon thousands of pages of evidence released during the discovery process in this case, people at Fox News allegedly knew the channel was repeatedly peddling lies. But it didn't care."

Phang pointed out that Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch was preoccupied with placating former President Donald Trump and retaining Trumpsters "because, according to the lawsuit, profits were more important than the truth."

The voting software company, "armed with thousands of pages of texts and internal chats and emails by and between Fox hosts, producers and executives," Phang wrote, Dominion has asked the judge overseeing the case to rule in its favor before the case goes to trial next month.

"And some legal experts agree: Dominion doesn't just have the upper hand, it has the truth on its side," the former prosecutor explained. "If Dominion is successful, then all that would be left to determine is the amount of damages that Dominion is entitled to receive. That's where the numbers become astronomical. Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in lost profits and reputational harm. But it's also seeking punitive damages, which are not capped under New York state law and could also be in the billions of dollars."

"And a multi-billion-dollar punitive damages verdict would not just punish Fox News," Phang added. "It would send a ringing message to all media companies to keep themselves in check and uphold the truth." 

Fox has denied any wrongdoing and has accused Dominion of cherrypicking evidence in its filings to publicly smear the network. Fox has also accused Dominion of taking an "extreme" view of defamation law and called the lawsuit a "blatant violation of the First Amendment."

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Legal experts have questioned whether Fox's First Amendment defense will hold up in court.

Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and CNN legal analyst, similarly told Salon last month that the damages in the case could quickly swell beyond $1.6 billion.

I think they're looking at those damages being multiplied and even for a large company like Fox, you're looking potentially at billions of dollars of damages," he said. "That's very dangerous."

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Brief Dominion Voting Systems Fox News Politics Rupert Murdoch