The $787 million settlement between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems shows the cable news industry that there are serious financial repercussions for spreading lies. This ruling not only serves as a reminder to be more responsible but also proves that claiming “opinion” is not enough of a defense against defamation. Networks may have to reevaluate their reliance on commentators who spew baseless theories without any evidence or fact-checking.
This case highlights the lack of proof presented by Donald Trump and his supporters in alleging that the 2020 election was stolen from him. If this were true, there would be concrete evidence which could have been used by Fox News during its lawsuit with Dominion; however, no such information was provided because it does not exist. The judge presiding over this case determined that 19 instances involved false statements made as facts rather than opinions – indicating that unbiased reporting failed to occur in some cases due to contradictions found within public sources and even from Dominion itself being left out of the story entirely.
Clearly, these events illustrate just how dangerous deliberately misleading information can become, if broadcasted unchallenged into our homes on television networks like Fox News.
The settlement carries a stark lesson for the industry: irresponsibility and defamation in journalism will not be tolerated, nor can it be justified through legal defense. In earlier days of libel law, there was an exemption known as the neutral-report privilege that shielded public figures from untrue accusations if they were deemed “newsworthy”; however, this argument did not stand up to scrutiny when Dominion brought their case against Fox News—the judge declared that even if such an exception existed, the evidence didn’t back up FNC’s claim that they had acted with good intention and neutrality.
What does this mean for cable news hosts? This ruling could spell trouble for loose cannons like Lou Dobbs whose comments were heavily featured in the court’s decision; his show was unceremoniously canceled soon after Smartmatic filed suit against Fox News. The market for these prime-time personalities who flaunt outlandish conspiracy theories without being challenged or questioned may take a major hit due to this costly consequence – networks might think twice before hiring someone unpredictable (and potentially dangerous) enough to cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.