I can’t begin to tell you how many so-called friends begged, screamed, cajoled, pleaded and spent countless hours trying to sell me on the concept of settling disputes by spending money . Whether it was in the form of a legal settlement, or simply to buy someone a meal or a coffee to make amends for an argument, it seems almost everyone I used to know is absolutely conditioned to the concept of throwing money at a problem.
I guess when you have it, it makes sense. Truth is, I was as guilty of that as anyone when I had it. And since I’ve spent my career in entertainment, where projects and contracts regularly get bought out, and these days I know far too many good people still being paid to do nothing thanks to mergers, acquistions, audience splintering and missed fiscal projections, I can almost understand their perspective.
But these days, that’s simply not an option for me. As I attempted to somehow get into those former friends’ heads, I DO NOT HAVE ANY MONEY TO SPARE. I barely have enough to live on. Days like yesterday, my net worth had a MINUS sign in front of it.
Moreover, as that crushing reality has become more my norm than the exception, I have become all the more resolute in my desire to have resolution, accountability, and even a simple apology –to me, that’s what means the most. I’m consistently crushed by how thoroughly incapable so many people I thought were so have gone to such great lengths to somehow avoid doing what I memrely request–even when I’ve sometimes actually spent what little money I do have in an attempt to extract it. And I’m all the more excited by the rare examples of principled entities who seemed to share similar determination.
I was genuinely anticipating yesterday’s commencing of the trial pitting Dominion Voting Systems against FOX News. After weeks of leaked e-mails and texts that revealed numerous executives and on-air personalities as being fully aware that the claims of lunatics such as Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani that purported that Dominion rigged the 2020 Presidential election in favor of Joe Biden, and a weekend filled with spectulation of an impending settlement, yesterday morning nonetheless had dozens of excited “mainstream” media descending on Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware for the start of what was supposed to be a quixotic pursuit of justice and fairness. Visions of weeks of testimony from the likes of Tucker Carlson, more half-contrite admissions by Rupert Murdoch that he “could have done something about these lies, but didn’t”, and grilling of exactly what tactics Maria Bartiromo used or had used on her to give a voice to some of the more ludicrous claims that dominated FOX News’ airwaves in late 2020, were rampant in competing network executives’ heads, and with strikes looming and the knowledge of what kind of ratings last summer’s January 6th hearings delivered, there was salivation as well as anticipation in the air.
As I’m sure most of you know by now, thought, it all came to a screeching and sudden halt yesterday afternoon, as Bloomberg’s Erik Larson and Jef Fenney reported:
Tuesday’s settlement with Dominion Voting Systems Inc., for almost half the $1.6 billion Dominion sought, was struck on the brink of a potentially embarrassing six-week trial. Now Fox must grapple with Smartmatic’s suit, which a judge declined to dismiss last year. After the settlement, Smartmatic said in a statement that it would “expose the rest” of Fox’s “misconduct.”
The Dominion deal came to light in a Wilmington, Delaware, courtroom after more than two years of legal skirmishing over whether the network defamed the company by airing bogus claims that it rigged the vote against Donald Trump. A jury of 12 had been selected, and the trial was about to get underway.
Instead, following an unexplained one-day delay Monday, it was held up for hours more in the sweaty final moments of the deal-making. At that point, Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch was soon to take the witness stand to be grilled over evidence that Fox knew the claims were unfounded.“ The parties have resolved their case,” Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis told the jurors after he had them brought back into the courtroom. “That means your service is done.” Tuesday’s outcome shows Fox is willing to settle such fights if it thinks it’s in its interest. Fox Corp. had more than $4 billion of cash and cash equivalents on hand at the end of 2022, according to a corporate filing.
So instead of a trial of the kind of principles Dominion touted all along as their motivation, at the end of the day, they took fifty cents on the dollar (maybe it’s a Canadian accounting thing?) and walked away, seemingly content with the result. At least that was the game face their top exeutive tried to put on national TV this morning, as THE WRAP’s Adam Chitwood reported:
Dominion came away the monetary victor in the company’s defamation settlement with Fox News, but the cable TV network’s statement “acknowledging certain claims about Dominion to be false” has left much to be desired from those who wanted to see Fox admit to lying about the 2020 election results on air.
When questioned on Wednesday by “Good Morning America” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos, who noted that “what you didn’t get was an apology,” Dominion CEO John Poulos admitted the statement that Fox News put out was not what he wrote.
“There was an acknowledgment, and certainly it was not the way I wrote it. I had some conversations with my team, my co-founder and I, and at the end of the day, the court system is really about accountability. We feel we got it. All of the facts that we discovered during the case had come to light.”
Well, maybe HE’s happy. Poulos has at least 787 million good reasons to be. But so many others, such as The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes, are far less so, and much more in line with how I feel.
“The truth matters. Lies have consequences. Over two years ago, a torrent of lies swept Dominion and election officials across America into an alternative universe of conspiracy theories causing grievous harm to Dominion and the country,” a lawyer for Dominion Voting Systems declared yesterday.
“Today’s settlement of $787.5 million represents vindication and accountability.”
Maybe. But I can’t shake the feeling that even though Dominion has won the battle, the rest of us continue to lose the war.
“The settlement represents justice for Dominion,” tweeted David French, “but by no means does it cleanse Fox of its corruption. Liars must be fired. Viewers must be informed. The company must apologize.”
But none of that happened.
There was no apology, no admission, and no on air-retraction or correction. No has been fired. On the network last night, the settlement was barely acknowledged.
Sure, CNN’s Jake Tapper may have gotten some laughs out of it. And the likes of MSNBC’s Michael Conway is holding out hope that the impending sequel to this might still save the day:
The complete terms of Fox News’ settlement with Dominion are not public yet. But it seems to leave unresolved critical issues that could have been decided in the jury trial. Specifically, the jury would have had to decide whether Fox News defamed Dominion knowing the statements were false or recklessly disregarding their truth or falsity.
And Fox News’ tepid statement will make precisely nobody happy.
“We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” the release notes. That wording admits nothing. The court already made that finding in its rulings on summary judgment on March 31. Critically, Fox is not admitting that it lied about Dominion, much less that it did so knowingly.
The backlash to this framing has been swift, with critics decrying what feels like a pricey slap on the wrist. But a jury cannot force a company to publicly apologize. A jury can only award money. And Dominion is a private corporation seeking to advance its own economic agenda. The massive payment satisfied Dominion’s goal. Any demand by Dominion for a public apology could have been a deal breaker that would have scuttled a settlement.
Meanwhile Fox News lawyers knew that any acknowledgment of wrongdoing in the Dominion case would have huge collateral damage. Because Fox still faces another major lawsuit — this one from Smartmatic, also a voting machine company — which is seeking $2.7 billion in damages for allegedly defamatory claims about the 2020 presidential election.
Smartmatic has a lot to build on here. The judge in Dominion’s case ruled that Fox News broadcast multiple false statements of fact. Smartmatic can and should parlay the sworn depositions from the Dominion case and the internal Fox News text messages and emails to prosecute its own case.
Here’s the sad truth. Neither Tapper nor Conway has close to the size of audience that Carlson or Hannity regularly do. Lately, even Bartiromo and Dobbs compete with Tapper on a key demo basis. And apart from the $4B war chest that Murdoch has, the $787M check he just wrote represents roughly a year’s worth of affiliate revenue fees for FOX News Channel alone. Every dime of revenue he makes from his other channels, including the owned-and-operated stations, as well as his other video services and commercial advertisers, remains a steady stream of income. And plenty of them pay much more, and more consistently, than a certain rehabbing pillow hugger.
So forgive me, I’m in line with those who think that Smartmatic has its own price, Rupes and his team will land on a number, and that yet again in the court of public opinion there will still be no admission, no apology, no accountability. from anyone at FOX News. Much like in Washington these days, Much like my life has been.
And the minions who watch FOX News–and, as I’ve written before, far fewer of them ACTUALLY DID LEAVE TO SPECIFICALLY WATCH NEWSMAX, which started this whole mess in the first place–will be happy.
Because they sure don’t have the kind of money to settle anything, and even they don’t believe in always using weapons to make their point. They simply want what they perceive as justice.
The fact I have similar values, at least when it comes to accountability, has been so miscontrued by the sadly distant ex-friends I once had, leads me to cry uncontrollably every single night. Most of many days. Especially lately.
This past weekend I received the most inane list of no-contact requests. Were I to agree to this, I would have to effectively shut my life down. Lord knows the entity that compiled it would have much preferred that would have been the case. And I’m pretty damn sure a few other species would cheer loudly if that were to happen.
I’m honestly not sure what, if any, price I would have to cave in to these demands. When you’re this low, it’s difficult to fathom how high is up. But I know something with a plus sign in front of it would help a tad. Yep, that damn link appears at the bottom yet again. Un-color-corrected, by the way.
Right now, I’m not settling. I sure hope Smartmatic doesn’t. But I’m well aware that’s more of a pipe dream than not.
Guess we’ll need to settle for more FOX News to counterprogram endless reruns this summer.
Until next time…