The Fox rot starts at the top

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Put your hands together Dominion Voting Systems, the balloting firm that’s doggedly suing Fox News for defamation, seeking $1.6 billion in damages as recompense for the network’s relentless lies that Dominion’s 2020 machines were somehow rigged for Joe Biden.

This lawsuit is the gift that keeps on giving, as evidenced yet again this week with the release of sworn testimony from Rupert Murdoch himself.

The rajah of right-wing propaganda has been stripped bare.

Fox News has been trying to get this lawsuit thrown out of court. Good luck with that.

It’s now abundantly clear – via the Fox internal texts and emails amassed by Dominion and now Murdoch’s deposition – that top management at the Orwellian outlet knew all along Trump’s 2020 “stolen election” mantra was total nonsense, but nonetheless allowed the Big Lie to be amplified on the air. In their quest for hot ratings, and feeling the heat from nutty competitors like Newsmax, Murdoch and his underling executives felt compelled to keep feeding crap to the saps.

“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight,” Murdoch said under oath.

Yeah I know, this revelation is not exactly shocking. Nor was it shocking two weeks ago, when we learned, via a Dominion legal filing, that Fox’s superstar hosts were well aware they were lying on the air. But to read Murdoch’s admissions in his own words, under oath, is more delicious than a tub of sea salt vanilla.

Question from Dominion lawyer: “It is fair to say you seriously doubted any claim of massive election fraud?”

Murdoch: “Oh yes.”

Dominion lawyer: “And you seriously doubted it from the very beginning?”

Murdoch: “Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up and up.”

But Fox hosts kept telling viewers that the election was not on the up and up – and Murdoch was fine with that. And he was fine with the hosts bringing on MAGA guests, like Rudy Giuliani, who lied as they breathed.

Dominion lawyer: “You are aware now that Fox did more than simply host these guests and give them a platform; correct?”

Murdoch: “I think you’ve shown me some material in support of that.”

Dominion lawyer: “In fact, you are now aware that Fox (hosts) endorsed at times this false notion of a stolen election?”

Murdoch: “…Some of our commentators were endorsing it. Yes. They endorsed.”

At another point in the deposition, Murdoch candidly explained why he felt it was necessary for various Fox hosts to amplify the Big Lie: He didn’t want to alienate his MAGA viewers by telling them the truth, and he didn’t want to antagonize Trump.

In Murdoch’s words, “He had a very large following, and they were probably mostly viewers of Fox, so it would have been stupid” to tell them the truth. It was all about making money; in his words, “It is not ‘red’ or ‘blue,’ it is green.”

Dominion lawyer: “You could have said…to the hosts, ‘Stop putting Rudy Giuliani on the air’?”

Murdoch: “I could have. But I didn’t.”

The latest legal filing has all kinds of toxic nuggets. For instance, Murdoch testified that, during the 2020 campaign, he worked backstage with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, feeding him debate strategies and tipping him off about the content of Biden campaign ads that had yet to be aired. Suffice it to say that if anyone at MSNBC ever colluded that way with a Democratic candidate, two things would happen: the rabid right would go nuclear, and MSNBC would fall all over itself to apologize.

But Fox, in this lawsuit, still insists it did nothing wrong. Murdoch’s bottom line is that Trump was circulating the election-fraud lies and that Fox had a duty to “report” them to an audience that craved them. At one point in his deposition he even declared: “I am a journalist at heart.”

I bet you can conjure a more accurate word for that guy.

Indeed, the best retort comes from sane conservative columnist David French: “Fox News became a juggernaut not simply by being Republican or conservative but by offering its audience something it craved even more deeply: representation. And journalism centered on representation isn’t journalism at all.”

Copyright 2023 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]

Cited by the Columbia Journalism Review website as one of the nation's top political scribes, and by ABC News' online political tip sheet as "one of the finest political journalists of his generation, " Dick Polman is the national political columnist at Philadlephia NPR affiliate WHYY, and has covered or chronicled every presidential campaign since 1988.

A Philadelphia resident, Dick roamed the country for most of his 22 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has been blogging daily since 2006. He's currently on the full-time faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, as "Writer in Residence." He has been a frequent guest on C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and various NPR shows - most notably Philadelphia's "Radio Times" on WHYY-FM.