Washington — Fox News Media on Tuesday asked a court in Delaware to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against it by Dominion Voting Systems over false claims about the 2020 presidential election amplified by some of its on-air personalities and guests.
In a 61-page filing in the Delaware Supreme Court, lawyers for the media company argued Dominion's lawsuit "threatens to stifle" the media's First Amendment right to tell the public about "newsworthy allegations of paramount public concern," such as those mounted by Mr. Trump and his legal team regarding the results of the presidential election.
"There are two sides to every story," lawyers Chip Babcock and Scott Keller wrote. "The press must remain free to cover both sides, or there will be a free press no more."
Since the November 3 election, Mr. Trump has continued to claim without evidence that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen from him, repeatedly calling into question the legitimacy of President Biden's win. The Justice Department, however, said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and dozens of lawsuits filed by Mr. Trump seeking to reverse the outcome of the election in key battleground states were tossed out, including by judges the former president appointed.
Dominion said in its suit against Fox that the company "sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes," which damaged Dominion's reputation and led to death threats and harassment against its employees.
But Fox argued in its motion to dismiss Dominion's suit that it was reporting claims by the former president and his legal team and conducting newsworthy interviews with the key players involved in the election challenges.
The American people, lawyers for Fox said, "deserved to know why President Trump refused to concede despite his apparent loss."
Fox News Media argued Dominion's defamation claim against Fox challenges speech that is constitutionally protected, as comments made by hosts Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Tucker Carlson were expressions of their opinion or were summaries of allegations made by the president and his legal team.
"In full context, reasonable viewers would understand many of the Fox hosts' statements in interviews with the President's surrogates as constitutionally protected opinion calling for further investigation and greater transparency—not endorsements stating defamatory facts," Fox said.
The company argued its hosts "responsibly covered" the claims about the integrity of the election, pressing Mr. Trump's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, for evidence to back up their allegations that the election was stolen and Dominion's voting machines were changing votes. Dominion, Fox's lawyers said, failed to prove "actual malice," or with knowledge or reckless disregard for the truth by the company and its hosts.
Dominion filed its defamation lawsuit against Fox News Media in March and was the first targeting a media outlet from the voting company. Dominion's attorneys also sued Giuliani, Powell and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for falsely alleging the company rigged the presidential election.
Smartmatic USA, an electronic voting company, also filed a defamation suit against Fox News over the outlet's baseless claims of election fraud. Fox News Media filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit, as well.