US judge hits Fox News with sanction for withholding defamation case evidence

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New York: The judge overseeing the $1.6 billion ($2.4 billion) defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News said on Wednesday he was imposing a sanction on the network and very likely would investigate whether Fox’s legal team withheld evidence, the New York Times reported.

Rupert Murdoch.Credit: Rob Homer

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis issued the sanction after Dominion’s lawyers revealed instances in which Fox’s attorneys did not turn over evidence in a timely manner, the Times reported.

Murdoch is expected to be called to the witness stand in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation suit against his company as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the matter.

This evidence included recordings made by a former Fox employee of Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for former President Donald Trump, saying before pre-taped Fox appearances that he did not have any evidence to back up the false allegations of election-rigging by Dominion in the 2020 race that are at the heart of the lawsuit.

Jury selection is set to begin in the case on Thursday. Dominion sued Fox Corp and Fox News in 2021, accusing them of ruining its reputation by airing false claims by Trump and his lawyers that the Denver-based company’s voting machines were used to rig the outcome of the election against him and in favour of Democrat Joe Biden.

In sanctioning Fox, Davis ruled that if Dominion now needs to conduct additional depositions or redo any already conducted, that “Fox will do everything they can to make the person available, and it will be at a cost to Fox,” according to the Times.

The newspaper reported that the judge took his action based on details from a new filing in a separate lawsuit against Fox by Abby Grossberg, a former producer at the network.

Grossberg said in her latest filing that she has tapes of former Trump lawyers including Giuliani conceding they lacked evidence for their claims. The recordings and transcripts of them were widely circulated and discussed within Fox, Grossberg added.

Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Davis said in a pretrial conference on Tuesday that Fox News had a “credibility problem” after it disclosed for the first time in nearly two years of litigation that Rupert Murdoch was an officer of the company. As a Fox News officer, Murdoch would likely have been subject to more probing discovery by Dominion.

Fox News in New York City.Credit: AP

A Fox spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday that Murdoch has been listed as executive chairman of Fox News in SEC filings since 2019, and that a Dominion attorney referenced that filing during Murdoch’s deposition.

Fox has argued that its coverage of the vote-rigging claims was inherently newsworthy and protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

Reuters, Bloomberg

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