Fox News saves itself from grueling trial with last-minute $787.5M settlement

Right-wing network pays dearly to keep Murdoch and Tucker Carlson off the stand. But there's more trouble ahead

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published April 18, 2023 4:18PM (EDT)

Rupert Murdoch (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Rupert Murdoch (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

An apparent settlement has been reached in Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News.  Shortly after jury selection concluded on Tuesday, and just before opening statements were to begin, what was likely to be one of the most important trials in the history of First Amendment law was abruptly cut short. 

"The parties have resolved this case," Judge Eric Davis told jurors in his Wilmington, Delaware, courtroom. "Without you, the parties would not have been able to resolve their situation. … Although it's short, not the six weeks you've expected, you have done your duty. The case has been resolved."

The last-minute settlement, reportedly for a sum $787.5 million, averts a potentially lengthy trial that would have focused the national media's attention for weeks, and might have seen prominent Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity on the witness stand along with Fox Corp. chair Rupert Murdoch.

But the long-dominant right-wing news network could have more legal trouble ahead. Fox News still faces a $2.7 billion lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting software and hardware company that alleges Fox News defamed it with false allegations of election fraud in the wake of Donald Trump's defeat by Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

In a statement, Fox News said it was "pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems" to avoid "the acrimony of a divisive trial." Without directly admitting that its election coverage had been full of lies, Fox News said it acknowledged "the Court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false." The settlement, the network said, "allows the country to move forward from these issues."

For its part, Dominion celebrated the settlement as a victory for honesty in reporting.

"The truth matters, lies have consequences," Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson said. "Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company, our employees, and the customers that we serve," added Dominion CEO John Poulos.


By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Aggregate Dominion Voting Systems Fox News Lawsuit Rupert Murdock Settlement Smartmatic