Rupert Murdoch’s two-day deposition, as his Fox News empire attempts to fend off a $1.6 billion lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, has been quoted widely for his candid assessments of former President Donald Trump and his network’s top hosts.
Among those widely reported revelations, Murdoch testified that some of Fox’s prime-time stars effectively “endorsed” the 2020 election conspiracy theories that he described as “really crazy stuff.” It’s now known that he handed Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner confidential information about then-candidate Joe Biden’s advertisements and campaign strategy. Dominion highlighted Murdoch’s expression of regret: “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight.”
All of these revelations generated countless headlines as Dominion and Fox News prepare for a six-week trial in April.
Fuller passages of Murdoch’s depositions, released on Tuesday evening, show that these only scratch the surface.
1. Before he denounced 2020 election conspiracy theories, Murdoch expressed ambivalence.
For a deposition generally filled with scathing assessments of Trump and Fox personalities, Murdoch started off his questioning fairly guarded about his beliefs about the election.
Asked multiple times whether he believed Dominion rigged the election and committed fraud, Murdoch responded: “I haven’t seen any evidence.” Dominion’s lawyer Justin Nelson emphasized that he was asking about Murdoch’s personal opinion.
“I honestly do not know,” Murdoch replied.
“You don’t know?” Nelson needled.
“I’ve seen no evidence that they did,” Murdoch answered.
Questioned about theories of election cheating by algorithm, Murdoch turned philosophical: “I never know with the algorithms. In our business, we suffer from other people using algorithms.” He emphasized that he’s “not saying anything happened with Dominion.”
“I’m simply saying algorithms are a bit of a mystery,” Murdoch said.
After this back-and-forth, Dominion’s lawyer reminded Murdoch that the deposition is “as if we are in front of a jury,” adding that an actual jury will be judging his credibility based on his answers. Nelson pushed for yes or no answers — and quickly got them from Murdoch.
“So, to the best of your current knowledge, do you believe that Dominion software and algorithms manipulated vote counts in the 2020?” the lawyer asked.
“No,” Murdoch replied.
He gave the same answer when asked whether he’s seen credible evidence that algorithms manipulated the vote.
2. Murdoch’s digs at Trump and Fox personalities are more brutal than you realized.
Despite that cautious start, Murdoch gave candid, even scorching, testimony about Trump and election conspiracy theories elsewhere.
“You have called Mr. Trump ‘plain bonkers’?” Dominion’s lawyer asked.
“I’m sure,” Murdoch replied.
“You have called him ‘unable to express his egomania’?”
“Unable to suppress it,” Murdoch corrected.
Murdoch agreed that he “might have” said the former president was “mad, maybe clinically.”
“You’ve called him nuts a couple times?”
“I call a lot of people nuts, yes,” Murdoch answered.
Murdoch said that he agreed with the statement that the “Republican Party is destroying itself on the altar of Trump” and that he believed Trump was an “over-the-top braggart.”
His assessment of Fox host Lou Dobbs was even more lacerating.
“What was wrong with Lou Dobbs, besides being an extremist?” Nelson asked.
“That’s a very big thing to be wrong for,” Murdoch quipped.
In the deposition, Murdoch indicated that when the late Fox CEO Roger Ailes hired Dobbs, he didn’t know “anything” about Dobbs and had hardly heard of him.
Murdoch also testified that he didn’t think Trump was an extremist.
“He sometimes uses a lot of hyperbole, but in action, not really,” he said.
When Dominion’s lawyer noted that Trump called for the Constitution to be suspended, Murdoch simply said: “I think it’s profoundly wrong.”
Murdoch also offered a cutting assessment of Maria Bartiromo’s breakfast show: “It has zero audience,” he said.
3. Murdoch denied giving Kushner unaired Biden ad info — before he admitted it.
On the second day of his testimony, Murdoch spoke of his friendship and conversations with Trump’s son-in-law, whom he gave a much kinder assessment.
When first asked whether he gave Kushner a glimpse at Biden ads, Murdoch gave a short: “No.” He amended that response when shown exhibits indicating that he did just that.
“My people tell me his advertisements are a lot better creatively than yours,” Murdoch is quoted writing in an email to Kushner dated Sept. 24, 2022. “Just passing by it on.”
Dominion’s lawyer pressed him on whether it was “appropriate” to give an opposing campaign a heads up on a rival’s ad before it goes public, and Murdoch passed it off as more personal than politics.
“I was trying to help Mr. Kushner,” Murdoch testified. “He’s a friend of mine.”
Murdoch agreed, when pressed, that he was also trying to help the Trump campaign.
“Right,” Murdoch said. “I guess so.”
In mid-October, Murdoch wrote to Kushner again: “more stuff on Biden was coming, hopefully before the debate,” according to the deposition.
4. Murdoch said it was “all downhill” for “extreme partisan” Rudy Giuliani since his time as New York City mayor.
When Rudy Giuliani held his widely mocked press conference announcing his failed 2020 election lawsuits, Murdoch famously branded his performance “really crazy stuff” and “damaging.”
Murdoch agreed under questioning that the mere fact that he was advising Trump was “really bad.”
“It was a personal observation,” Murdoch said. “I have known Mr. Giuliani for 20 years when he was a very good mayor of New York, but it has all been downhill since.”
Murdoch said that Giuliani’s “judgment was bad” and he “became an extreme partisan.”
5. Rupert Murdoch claimed under oath not to read Law&Crime’s sister site Mediaite — until the evidence showed otherwise.
Law&Crime’s sister site Mediaite took a victory lap after a filing from Dominion revealed that Murdoch acknowledged that there was “some truth” to their founding editor Colby Hall’s column titled “Fox News Identity Crisis: Indulge Trump’s Election Conspiracy or Reject It … and Watch Its Audience Flee?”
The released portions of Murdoch’s depositions show more of the backstory, including his emphatic denial of being one of their readers.
“It is your testimony under oath?” Nelson said.
“I do not read Mediaite,” Murdoch responded.
Pressed about his quote accepting some of the truth of the column, Murdoch hedged: ” I’m sure there are elements of truth in it, but not everything.”
Branding Mediaite an “old lefty enemy,” Murdoch defended Tucker Carlson for his pushback against Sidney Powell.
“The way he called out that crazy would-be lawyer really great,” Murdoch said, referring to Carlson’s grilling of Powell.
Private communications later showed Carlson called Powell a “f—ing b—-,” outside her presence and off the air.
Read the Murdoch depositions here.
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