Last month Fox News producers in New York, Washington, and other bureaus were summoned for mandatory training sessions. The topic: libel law.
With Fox facing down two defamation lawsuits that could cost the company billions of dollars, management decided to set up lengthy meetings about legal concepts like “actual malice.” That’s what Dominion Voting Systems and another voting technology company, Smartmatic, are trying to prove: that Fox aired lies about their firms while the people involved knew the claims weren’t true or acted with reckless disregard for the truth. The training “came a little bit late,” one staffer cracked. A producer who attended a late February educational session said Dominion and Smartmatic were not mentioned by name but didn’t have to be: “We all knew why we were there.”
Insiders say the workshops have happened for years. Indeed, legal refreshers are routine at major media companies—make sure you ask for comment, choose your adjectives carefully, attribute incendiary claims. But there is nothing routine about this moment in Fox News history. Every new legal filing in Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation suit sets off a wave of coverage, criticism, and mockery, from the front page of The New York Times to the cold open of Saturday Night Live. More revelations came Tuesday, including Tucker Carlson saying of Donald Trump, “I hate him passionately,” and Rupert Murdoch saying “I hate our Decision Desk people”—the ones who accurately projected that Joe Biden had beat Trump.
From a corporate HR standpoint, some of the most destabilizing texts show Fox’s most powerful opinion hosts—Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham—dumping on their colleagues on the “news” side. New court filings show the opinion hosts derided numerous Fox reporters by name. “We thought they hated us,” one correspondent said, “but now we know it in their own words.” [Continue reading…]