This is it.
The media defamation trial of the century is on the precipice of kicking off in Wilmington, Delaware, in just days.
Jury selection in Dominion Voting Systems’ monster $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit took place all of Thursday, with 300 potential jurors being summoned to court. Good progress was made and the presiding judge noted that there were “more than enough jurors” to start the trial as scheduled on Monday.
It is there, in Courtroom 7E, where the biggest figures in Murdoch Media, accompanied by a throng of high-powered lawyers, will attempt to mount their defense after repeatedly failing to convince a judge to toss the now-historic case.
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It’s, frankly, extraordinary to write those words. When I watched Fox News broadcast election lies in the aftermath of the 2020 election, I never expected the network to be held accountable in a meaningful way.
I’ve covered Fox News for a while now. I’ve watched thousands and thousands of hours of the right-wing channel’s programming. I’ve seen its hosts over the years undermine public health, make gross anti-immigrant remarks, peddle lies and propaganda and push deranged conspiracy theories that were once reserved for the right-wing’s furthest fringes.
The network has always seemed to find a way to sail through the controversy, even the most hellish storms it has faced. Sometimes it has emerged even stronger and more emboldened than before.
But this time is different. This time, the normal tricks the network turns to during times of crisis will not free it from trouble. This time, in a court of law, the network will need to put forward an honest, fact-driven argument.
Fox News is about to enter the true No Spin Zone, where deception is strictly prohibited. Where it is not in charge. And where its top executives like Rupert Murdoch and Suzanne Scott and hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity cannot simply ignore a request for comment and resort to, instead, attacking “the media” on-air.
In this setting, where lies cannot be casually told and truth cannot be distorted beyond reality to fit a dishonest narrative, it will be fascinating to see how the network fares. If the pre-trial hearings are any indicator, it won’t be pretty. The case hasn’t even started and the presiding judge has already lost his patience with Fox’s legal team and put them on notice.
Perhaps the winds will shift for Fox News when the judge gaves in the trial on Monday. But if they play out like the last few weeks of court have, Fox News is in for a brutal ride.