Fox claims Dominion cannot prove $1.6 billion damages in defamation case

A Fox News channel sign is seen on a television vehicle outside the News Corporation building in New York City, in New York
A Fox News channel sign is seen on a television vehicle outside the News Corporation building in New York City, in New York, U.S. November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Feb 16 (Reuters) - Fox News on Thursday told a judge that Dominion Voting Systems has no evidence to support its “staggering” $1.6 billion damages claim in a defamation lawsuit over the network's coverage of election-rigging conspiracy theories.

Fox made the argument in a counterclaim filed in Delaware Superior Court, the latest development in a legal battle over Fox's coverage of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Fox alleged in its filing that Dominion's damages claim has "no connection" to its value "or any supposed injury it suffered" after the network aired debunked claims that Dominion voting machines were used to rig the election against Republican Donald Trump and in favor of his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

A Dominion representative declined to comment. The company's motion for summary judgment in the case is expected to made public by the end of the day Thursday.

Dominion alleged in its March 2021 lawsuit in Delaware that Fox amplified the false theories to boost its ratings and stay abreast of hard-right competitors including One America News Network, which Dominion is suing separately.

In its filing, Fox claimed Dominion remains a financially sound company with annual revenues approaching $100 million despite the election-rigging claims.

Fox alleged Dominion’s lawsuit serves only to “generate headlines, chill First Amendment-protected speech, and unjustly enrich” the company’s investors, who according to Fox’s filing have valued Dominion at roughly $80 million.

New York-based Fox asked the court to rule in its favor under a state law intended to protect defendants from lawsuits aimed at stifling free speech.

Dominion alleged in its March 2021 lawsuit that Trump allies like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell appeared on Fox News and falsely claimed Dominion software may have manipulated vote counts in favor of Biden.

On Nov. 30, 2020, for example, Powell appeared on Sean Hannity’s program, where she falsely stated that Dominion machines “ran an algorithm that shaved off votes from Trump and awarded them to Biden. And they used the machines to trash large batches of votes that should have been awarded to President Trump.”

Dominion has sought communications from Fox Corp (FOXA.O) Chairman Rupert Murdoch, his son Lachlan Murdoch and other top Fox personnel as it seeks to prove that the network either knew the statements it aired were false or recklessly disregarded their accuracy. That is the standard of “actual malice,” which public figures must prove in order to prevail in defamation cases.

Fox hosts and co-hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro and Bret Baier have also been questioned in recent months, court records show, as well as former host Lou Dobbs. Fox News Chief Executive Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace have also sat for depositions.

A five-week trial in the case is scheduled to begin on April 17.

Reporting by Jack Queen in New York; Additional reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Diane Craft

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