The courtroom confrontation was in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox Corporation. Fox News kicked off Tuesday with the conclusion of jury selection ahead of opening statements in a trial that has put one of the world’s major media outlets in the crossfire.
Anticipation for the day has grown since Dominion sued in 2021 over Fox’s broadcast of false claims that the company’s vote-counting machines were used to rig the 2020 US presidential election in favor of Democrat Joe Biden over then-Republican President Donald Trump.
After a one-day delay ordered by Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis in Wilmington, attorneys representing both sides completed selecting 12 jurors and 12 alternates from a pool of 58 potential jurors, clearing the way for both parties to open their statements to the panel.
Davis called on lawyers for both sides to move quickly in a trial he said would last six weeks.
“We will remain strict. I will not give you any more time,” said the judge.
Davis told the jurors that they should “fight human nature” and not discuss the case with anyone. The judge called it “the hardest thing you have to do at trial”.
Before making opening statements, which are expected to begin later on Tuesday, both sides were to consult with the judge about their objections to the slides that were to be used by both sides in their presentations to jurors.
Dan Webb, Fox’s attorney, told Davis that Dominion was contesting “massive sums,” the exclusion of which he said would “cripple” a key part of the media company’s defense.
Journalists and members of the public began lining up outside the courtroom hours before it opened. A protester in front of the building holds a “The fox is guilty” sign.
To add to the drama, 92-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who is the chairman of Fox, is set to testify during the trial, with a parade of Fox executives such as CEO Susan Scott on and off the air. Hosts include Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Jeanine Pirro.
The judge did not disclose the reason for the 24-hour delay, but two sources told Reuters that Fox and Dominion were in last-minute settlement talks. Fox and Dominion could still settle it. Fox faces a potentially monumental decision as Dominion also seeks punitive damages in the amount the jury deems appropriate.
In 2021, Dominion filed a lawsuit against Fox Corp. and Fox News, which claimed its business had been ruined by false allegations of voter fraud aired by the influential American news channel known as A-list conservative commentators.
Dominion was founded in Toronto by John Poulos and James Hoover, and its US headquarters are now located in Denver.
The jury’s main question will be whether Fox knowingly spread false information or recklessly disregarding the truth, the standard of “actual malice” that Dominion must display in order to prevail in a libel case. Based on a slew of internal communications, Dominion claims that Fox employees from newsroom staff to Murdoch knew the remarks were untrue but kept airing them out of fear of losing viewers to rival right-wing media.
The lawsuit is seen as a test of whether Fox coverage has crossed the line between ethical journalism and ratings chasing, Dominion claims and Fox deny. Fox presented herself in the pre-trial skirmishes as an advocate for freedom of the press.
And the stakes are rising even as another US voting tech company, Smartmatic, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox, seeking $2.7 billion in damages in a New York state court.
Fox Corp shareholders are demanding company records that could show whether directors and executives properly oversaw Fox News’ coverage of Trump’s voter fraud allegations, sources told Reuters, in what could be preliminary lawsuits to hold the directors responsible for costs. .
hour | Fox News prepares to defend itself:
Fox described Dominion’s damages as unrealistic and based on flawed economic models. An expert report commissioned by Dominion attributed dozens of lost contracts to Fox’s coverage, though much of the report is still under seal.
Fox alleged in a filing Sunday that Dominion agreed to pay more than $500 million of its compensation claim. A Dominion spokesperson disputed the claim and said its damages claim has not changed.
Fox Corp reported annual revenue of about $14 billion last year.
Dominion said defamatory statements about him appeared on Fox programming, including Futures Sunday morning, Lou Dobbs tonight And Justice with Judge Janine.
Dominion also cited evidence that some of the hosts and producers believed that the guests who posted the false allegations, including former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell, could not substantiate their claims.
Fox argued that coverage of allegations of election fraud was inherently newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution’s Freedom of the Press guarantee. Davis rejected that argument in a ruling last month.