During the Jan. 6th Capitol riot two years ago, then-President Donald Trump tried to call into Fox Business Network to speak with then-host Lou Dobbs but was rejected by the network’s executives, according to a new court filing submitted Thursday.
The filing was submitted by Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation lawsuit against Fox News. As previously reported, Dominion sued Fox News alleging that the decision by some of its hosts to humor the so-called “big lie” hurt its reputation.
“The afternoon of January 6, after the Capitol came under attack, then-President Trump dialed into Lou Dobbs’ show attempting to get on air,” the filing reads, CNN reported.
“But Fox executives vetoed that decision. Why? Not because of a lack of newsworthiness. January 6 was an important event by any measure. President Trump not only was the sitting President, he was the key figure that day,” it continues.
The filing states that Fox News rejected Trump because of complaints from Fox Business Network president Lauren Petterson, who reportedly said “it would be irresponsible to put him on the air” and “could impact a lot of people in a negative way.”
Buried in the Dominion filing: Donald Trump dialed into Lou Dobbs’ show on 1/6 trying to get on air but Fox would not let him. 1/6 committee didn’t know Trump had made this call, according to a source familiar with the panel’s work. pic.twitter.com/vGWl4Lbn5Y
— Annie Grayer (@AnnieGrayerCNN) February 17, 2023
Dobbs’ show was canceled a few weeks later reportedly on account of him fully humoring Trump’s theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
Fox responded in a statement, calling out the “noise and confusion” in the case:
“There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion and their opportunistic private equity owners, but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan. Dominion has mischaracterized the record, cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context, and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law.”
The filing submitted Thursday continues by making the case that Fox News and Fox Business Network were fully aware that Trump’s election fraud claims were themselves fraudulent but allowed them anyway for the sake of ratings.
“The filing is rife with examples of Fox News hosts and executives worrying that departing from Trump’s line, or questioning his team’s claims, might hurt their business model,” according to The Washington Post.
“They worried especially about Newsmax, which was less discerning in its coverage of Trump’s election conspiracy theories and saw a ratings boom at the time. The Fox executives acknowledged the shoddiness of Newsmax’s 2020 election coverage but also expressed concern the rival network was taking its viewers.”
In a Nov. 10th, 2020 email, Jay Wallace reportedly texted, “The Newsmax surge is a bit troubling — truly is an alternative universe when you watch, but it can’t be ignored.”
In a Nov. 16th email, Fox Corporation chair Rupert Murdoch added, “These people should be watched, if skeptically. … We don’t want to antagonize Trump further, but Giuliani taken with a large grain of salt. Everything at stake here.”
In a Nov. 18th email, Fox executive Ron Mitchell noted that Newsmax was citing reportedly lower-quality sources like The Gateway Pundit but then admitted that maybe Fox News viewers would also prefer such sources.
“This type of conspiratorial reporting might be exactly what the disgruntled FNC viewer is looking for,” he wrote.
As Fox execs and producers were shit-talking Sidney Powell’s “insane” theories, they also suggested they replicate Newsmax’s “lack of any meaningful editorial guidance” because “this type of conspiratorial reporting might be exactly what the disgruntled FNC viewer is looking for” pic.twitter.com/RHRWZockCK
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 17, 2023
The day after this memo was sent, Fox News heeded the message and aired the entirety of the nutso Giuliani-Powell press conference.
Even though Rupert Murdoch called it “crazy,” then-correspondent Kristin Fisher (now with CNN) was punished for fact-checking Giluiani’s claims. pic.twitter.com/UMg1cPR0vs
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 17, 2023
The Thursday filing continues by drawing attention to the way Fox News executives had purposefully reprimanded several hosts for daring to fact-check Trump’s fraud claims.
In one instance, reporter Kristin Fisher reportedly fact-checked attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s infamous Nov. 19th news conference.
“So much of what he said was simply not true or has already been thrown out in court,” she said, reportedly adding that the claims from Trump’s legal team were not matching up with reality.
For this, she was reprimanded afterward by her boss, Bryan Boughton, who “emphasized that higher-ups at Fox News were also unhappy with it” and said that she “needed to do a better job of — this is a quote — ‘respecting our audience.'”
These new bombshells are an addition to what was already known, which was that while most Fox News hosts did humor Trump’s claims on air, behind the scenes they were mocking said claims.
“They privately derided Trump for his conspiracy theories and for his delayed response when the riot began but showed little if any such concern to viewers. They recognized Trump was the catalyst for the Jan. 6 riot in a way they publicly discounted or ignored,” according to the Post.
“[T]he entire, still-emerging picture of Fox is one of an organization that was scared to tell its viewers the full truth and instead internalized what it saw as the business value of airing false and baseless claims from noncredible actors (whether its own staff explicitly endorsed them or not). And its product reflected that posture in a way that has now put it in legal and financial jeopardy.”
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to include the statement from Fox.
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