Skip to main content

Dominion bombshells reveal how Rupert Murdoch, Paul Ryan, and Fox’s top lawyer secretly reacted to Trump’s ‘wild’ election claims

Rupert Murdoch and Paul Ryan

The depositions of Rupert Murdoch and Paul Ryan loom large in Dominion’s latest courtroom filing. (Photo of Murdoch via AP’s Mary Altaffer; Ryan via Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via AP)

News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch testified in a deposition that any Fox News executive who knowingly allows lies to be broadcast should be “reprimanded” or fired, a blockbuster new court filing states.

“They should be reprimanded – They should be reprimanded, maybe got rid of,” Murdoch said during a two-day deposition earlier this year.

Dominion Voting Systems, which has been pursuing a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News, claims that unsealed communications show the network’s executives doing just that. The network did so to keep viewers entranced by former President Donald Trump’s election lies from flocking to other right-wing networks like Newsmax and One America News, according to the lawsuit.

In his deposition, Murdoch conceded that Trump’s election fraud claims were “wild” — but added that it would be “stupid” to antagonize the former president, according to the filing.

“He had a very large following, and they were probably mostly viewers of Fox, so it would have been stupid,” Murdoch was quoted saying about Trump.

Murdoch defended the network’s editorial choices following the 2020 election.

“We report the news, and we have dozens of people a day on the channels that are talking about the news. And this was big news,” Murdoch said. “The President of the United States was making wild claims, but that is news.”

Dominion portrayed Murdoch as unapologetic about the network’s decisions about covering the election’s aftermath, even if he conceded he would have approached it differently “in hindsight.

“To this day, Rupert Murdoch and Fox refuse to apologize for or retract the lies Fox News broadcast about Dominion, even though he admits that ‘I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight’ and that Fox hosts ‘endorsed’ the ‘false notion of a stolen election,'” the conclusion of the blistering, 194-page brief states. “Whether Fox’s misconduct and recalcitrance merits punitive damages is a question for the jury.”

Murdoch testified that he wished Trump also went in a different direction.

“I thought the election was genuine, and it was bad advice to encourage [Trump] being a bad loser,” he’s quoted as saying.

Earlier this month, Dominion quoted a text message from Murdoch ripping Rudy Giuliani’s press conference with conspiracy theorist lawyer Sidney Powell as “really crazy stuff.” That was the November 2020 conference where Giuliani appeared to swat hair dye dripping on his face as he revealed his failed legal strategy to overturn former President Donald Trump’s electoral defeat in the courts.

Dominion’s latest document portrays Murdoch as intimately involved in the network’s broadcast decisions, right down to its guests.

“Rupert testified that he has probably told Fox News to close off certain guests from being on air completely, including ‘the Trump advisor, Bannon’ because Rupert ‘see[s] him as a fringe character,'” the filing states.

The document also liberally quotes from two other Fox Corp notables: director former Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and the network’s top lawyer Viet Dinh, a former top-ranking official in the George W. Bush-era Department of Justice.

Dominion says that Ryan called for “solid pushback” against Trump’s election fraud claims, in a text message to both Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch.

“[W]e are entering a truly bizarre phase of this where [Trump] has actually convinced himself of this farce and will do more bizarre things to delegitimize the election,” Ryan was said to have written in the message. “I see this as a key inflection point for Fox, where the right thing and the smart business thing to do line up nicely.”

Ryan called for Fox to put forth “solid pushback (including editorial) of [Trump’s] baseless calls for overturning electors.”

Dominion claims that Lachlan Murdoch disregard the advice.

Asked about conspiracy theories about Dominion, Dinh likewise said that “he did not believe” and “was skeptical of that allegation,” according to the document.

Fox News fired back with their own 164-page opposition brief seeking to dismiss the case on summary judgment.

“Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims,” the network said in a statement. “Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear FOX for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment.”

In its filing, Fox calls it “unquestionable” that Trump’s allegations had news value.

“Under Dominion’s approach, if the President falsely accused the Vice President of plotting to assassinate him, the press would be liable for reporting the newsworthy allegation so long as someone in the newsroom thought it was ludicrous,” the network’s brief says. “Such a rule would stop the media in its tracks.”

Read the brief below:

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."