Using text messages and emails sent by Fox employees and prominent hosts like Mr. Hannity and Tucker Carlson in the weeks after the election, Dominion has pieced together a dramatic account from inside the network, depicting a frantic scramble to woo back viewers after ratings collapsed.
On election night, Fox News was the first news outlet to declare Joseph R. Biden Jr. the winner of Arizona — effectively projecting that he would become the next president. With Mr. Trump refusing to concede that he had lost, he and his supporters turned against Fox, and the network’s ratings fell. Soon, many of the most popular hosts and shows on Fox began promoting the outlandish claims that Dominion machines were an integral part of a far-reaching voter fraud conspiracy to deny Mr. Trump a second term.
The filing on Monday also included a deposition by Viet Dinh, Fox’s chief legal officer. After Mr. Hannity told his audience on Nov. 5, 2020, that it would be “impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results,” Mr. Dinh said, he remarked to Lachlan Murdoch; the chief executive of Fox News Media, Suzanne Scott; and Fox’s top communications officer, Irena Briganti: “Hannity is getting awfully close to the line with his commentary and guests tonight.”
In his deposition, Mr. Dinh, when asked if Fox executives had an obligation to stop hosts of shows from broadcasting lies, said: “Yes, to prevent and correct known falsehoods.”
Lawyers for Fox, which filed its response to Dominion in court on Monday, have argued that its broadcasts after the election did not amount to defamation because they were protected under the First Amendment. In court filings, Fox has defended its commentary and reporting as the kind of work that any journalistic outfit would do by covering events and newsmakers that are indisputably newsworthy.
“A reasonable viewer would have readily understood that hosts were not espousing the President’s allegations themselves, but were providing a forum for the principal architects of those legal challenges,” Fox lawyers said in a brief filed this month.
If its broadcasts did not present any of the fraud allegations as true, the network has argued, “there is no potential for defamation at all.”