A Delaware judge said he wouldn’t stop Dominion Voting Systems from putting Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan on the witness stand in the upcoming $1.6 billion defamation trial against Fox News and its parent company.
Judge Eric Davis said in a pre-trial hearing Wednesday that the media mogul and his son, who is CEO of Fox Corporation, could testify if Dominion files a trial subpoena to compel them. He also included Paul Ryan, former speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who is on Fox Corporation’s board of directors.
Davis said he would not quash a hypothetical subpoena since both parties have made these witnesses “very relevant” to the case. Dominion, in pretrial court filings, has made it clear they want Murdoch to testify on the stand.
When is the lawsuit headed to trial?
The blockbuster lawsuit is slated to go to trial on April 17. The trial, which will last six weeks, will be one of the highest-profile cases held in Delaware in recent memory. The outcome could have significant financial implications for the country’s most-watched cable news channel.
Fox lawyers previously argued there was “no reason” for Murdoch to testify in the trial since he already gave a seven-hour deposition. They also noted his age of 92. Davis was skeptical of this argument, noting Murdoch’s engagement and his plans to travel to his different homes.
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Why call Rupert Murdoch to testify?
In his deposition, Murdoch acknowledged that Fox News hosts “endorsed” the false claims of the election being stolen and that he could have done more to stop it.
Last week, Davis ordered the lawsuit to go to trial, denying the summary judgment motions submitted by Fox News and Fox Corp. Davis denied many of the arguments made by Fox lawyers.
Fox lawyers have made the defense that the network and corporation are protected under the First Amendment. A “reasonable viewer,” they also argued, would understand that Fox hosts presented these claims to be allegations made by Trump associates, not as actual facts.
The cable news channel was covering the biggest news story of the day, Fox argued.
What else has the Delaware judge decided?
Davis, in his opinion, wrote that Dominion proved Fox aired false information about the company on its broadcasts.
“The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that is CRYSTAL clear that none of the statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” he wrote.
Davis did deny Dominion’s summary judgment relating to “actual malice,” determining this issue needed to be decided by a jury. Dominion needs to prove that Fox knowingly published false information about the voting machine company or recklessly disregarded information showing that the claims were not true.
Dominion lawyers argue that evidence shows how top Fox executives and hosts internally communicated that they did not believe then-President Donald Trump and allies’ election fraud allegations. All the while, Fox continued to give airtime to these claims.
Who else could be called to testify?
Fox, in a letter submitted Tuesday, revealed the list of witnesses they plan to make available during the trial.
It includes high-profile Fox News hosts like:
- Sean Hannity
- Tucker Carlson
- Lou Dobbs
- Jeanine Pirro
- Maria Bartiromo