The court documents, released on Feb. 16 and Monday, contain evidence that Dominion uncovered in its discovery process. The filings include snippets of depositions, as well as emails, text messages and instant messages among Fox executives, such as Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, and hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
Dominion, which makes voting technology, has accused Fox of repeatedly airing claims that its machines contributed to widespread fraud in the 2020 election despite knowing those claims were false. Dominion says Fox did that in a reckless pursuit of ratings and profit, and is asking for $1.6 billion in damages. The case is scheduled to go to trial in a Delaware state court in April.
Fox lawyers argued that its commentary and reporting after the election did not amount to defamation because its hosts had not endorsed falsehoods about Dominion and were, therefore, protected by the First Amendment.
Those dueling legal arguments, though, haven’t been aired on Fox’s networks.
The lone on-air mention of the case on Fox News has been by Howard Kurtz, who hosts the weekly Fox News show “MediaBuzz.” He addressed the Dominion case on the air this week, telling viewers: “I believe I should be covering it.”
“But,” he continued, “the company has decided as part of the organization being sued, I can’t talk about it or write about it, at least for now. I strongly disagree with that decision, but as an employee I have to abide by it.”
A Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
There are no legal orders barring media organizations from covering lawsuits they are involved in. And Mr. Rosenstiel pointed to a long history of past suits and scandals covered by the news organizations involved. The Washington Post, for example, ran a deeply reported article on how and why a reporter had made up a character in an article that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. The prize had been withdrawn a few days earlier after the fraud was uncovered. In 1999, The Los Angeles Times ran an investigative report on a profit-sharing agreement the company had entered into with the Staples Center.