In their billion-dollar defamation lawsuit, Dominion Voting Systems advances the argument that Fox News peddled conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election in a bid to keep their viewers from changing the channel to hard-right competitors Newsmax and One America Network.
A series of internal slides from the media giant released on Monday helps provide evidence for Dominion to advance that case.
“WHAT KEEPS US UP AT NIGHT,” one of those slides states, in block caps.
One of the bullet points that appears after that reads: “Post-election NEWS impact.”
A separate slide explores “POST-ELECTION STRATEGY” further, which airs concerns about Newsmax’s booming business.
“Share increase at Newsmax creates narrative that FNC rtgs decline are structural, not cyclical,” one of the bullet point reads.
Fox’s chief operating officer Joe Dorrego explained the distinction in a deposition in late February.
“When something is structural, it is a permanent change?” Dominion’s attorney Justin Nelson asked.
“Yes, yes,” Dorrego replied.
“And when something is cyclical, it will go up and down?”
“Correct,” the COO responded.
In his deposition, Dorrego denied telling Lachlan Murdoch that he feared such a development happening.
“I think what we are talking about here is if their share increase was sustained, then I think over a long period of time, this could be — create the narrative that our ratings declines are structural and not cyclical,” Dorrego testified.
“Luckily for us, as we sit here today with hindsight being 20/20, we do know, in fact, that much as we anticipated, what we looked at during this time — this very short time frame was quite, you know, exactly what we expected and cyclical in nature,” he added.
Dominion’s lawyer pressed Dorrego on whether he told Lachlan Murdoch that there was a risk of that narrative taking hold on Nov. 16, 2020, the date of that meeting.
“I think we’re identifying it as a potential risk but not necessarily an actual risk at that time,” Dorrego responded.
Lachlan Murdoch, for his part, downplayed the rhetoric of sleepless nights in his deposition.
“I know I said that, but I think that, you know, I was awake last night, as well,” he said. “As so – that’s part of my job. You know, you get a few gray hairs from being awake at – sports ratings or news ratings or entertainment ratings are probably the worst so…”
Dorrego was also grilled about the groundswell of anger from Trump supporters after Fox called Arizona for President Joe Biden.
Fox Corporation’s Senior Vice President Raj Shah said of that social media outrage, “It’s getting pretty perilous,” according to the deposition.
“The people who are in charge of analyzing Fox’s ratings and future trends are concluding that it’s getting pretty perilous, right?” Nelson needled.
“That was their view, yes,” Dorrego responded.
Dominion’s attorney also quoted Shah, on Nov. 10, 2020, fretting about competition for Fox from the political right.
“We are not concerned with losing market share to CNN or MSNBC right now,” Shah said. “Our concern is Newsmax and One America News Network.”
For Dominion, major Fox advertiser and Trump booster Mike Lindell also gave the network economic incentive to entertain post-election conspiracy theories. Dorrego freely acknowledged Lindell is “one of our largest advertisers.”
“It would be difficult to turn on Fox News and not see him during many commercial breaks,” he added, acknowledging that Lindell had come up in conversation with Lachlan Murdoch.
Throughout its litigation, Dominion has argued that top-ranking executives and talent at Fox secretly ridiculed post-2020 election conspiracy theories and allowed them to proliferate on the airwaves. The voting machine company says that this trend went right up to Rupert Murdoch, who took a hands-on interest in his news empire.
Dorrego acknowledged that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch attended editorial meetings “on occasion” but did not specify how often.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]