Fox deserved more retribution


AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

File – The American and FOX flags fly outside the News Corp. and Fox News headquarters on April 19, in New York. Fox Corp.’s hefty $787.5 million settlement with Dominion over defamation charges is unlikely to make a dent in Fox’s operations, analysts say. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

By Lucy Atkinson, Opinion Columnist

The Dominion Voting Systems v. FOX News Network lawsuit was settled for $787.5 million on April 18, and this conclusion was a severe disappointment. 

Dominion – the company whose voting machines were used in the 2020 election – first sued FOX news – a large-scale conservative media company – for defamation back in March 2021. 

The case was clearly historical. To succeed in a defamation lawsuit, plaintiffs must prove not only that a false statement was published, but that it was published with conscious, malicious intent.

It’s important to remember, too, that FOX is huge. According to Statista, FOX is the largest cable news network in the U.S. with 2.2 million primetime viewers. 

FOX has also spent its years tailoring to that very specific audience, which is largely conservative.

Since Trump’s election in 2016, we’ve seen FOX’s segments and coverage become increasingly outrageous: laughable, but to a dangerous extent. 

American politics have witnessed the creation of a huge, far-right following infamous for its aggressive behavior, unquestioning loyalty to Trump and resulting election denialism.

This is the crowd that stormed the capitol in 2021, the crowd that often includes Proud Boys and white supremacists, and the crowd that FOX news has worked constantly to keep as its loyal audience.  

To run through even a short list of all the irrational content FOX has aired to keep its crowd happy, or all the problematic officials their show has supported, would take far more text than this column has space for. 

However, there is space to discuss – at least to a small extent – the irrational claims FOX news consistently made that led to the Dominion lawsuit. 

A sore-loser like never seen before, Trump did not handle the results of the 2020 election well. Naturally, his worshippers didn’t either, and to appease their appetite for baseless conspiracy theories, FOX wasted no time in affirming that the election was stolen. 

Segment after segment spewed hatred for the cheating, un-patriotic left which had plucked off Trump’s crown. 

However, as later came to light in the Dominion lawsuit, text messages between FOX leaders revealed an awareness that their claims were false. To ensure commercial success, FOX had said not the truth, but what their audience wanted to hear. 

So no, Dominion did not sue because FOX hurt its feelings. Dominion sued because FOX consciously spread lies as though it was standard news. 

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, the principles that serve as the foundation of ethical journalism include ensuring accuracy and seeking the truth while minimizing harm.

“Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information,” according to the SPJ. 

While referring to themselves as journalists, FOX knowingly violated that crucial dedication to the truth.

It’s likely there was plenty more corruption that wasn’t revealed in the battle before it settled. What began as a $1.6 billion lawsuit fizzled away with zero public apology from FOX.

It’s difficult not to feel disappointed. Hopes soared when this unbearable corporation seemed to finally be facing serious consequences for its actions. Spirits then plummeted to see FOX get off so easily. 

Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect further retribution for a company as powerful as FOX, but it was far from unreasonable. Unreasonable, rather, is the idea that an entity which so heavily influences the thinking of so much of our population could quietly get away with violent lies. 

What we must take away instead is a hope that FOX will continue to dig its own grave and a caution for the future of the journalistic field. 

As NIU’s Media Studies Undergraduate Program Director Laura Vazquez explained, this was not only a historical case, but a warning and lesson for our society as a whole. 

“I want to say this, from the bottom of my heart, I believe journalism is critical to American democracy. We need journalism to continue,” said Vazquez. “And so when the courts actually stood up and said: ‘This is a problem. We have a problem here, and we’re going to hold FOX News Corp. – the supposed news arm of FOX – to these standards.’ That was when I think the real coup was made for preserving journalism for our country.”

The Dominion case proves that FOX news has fundamentally threatened the heart of journalism a crime that cannot be easily forgiven or forgotten