Over the weekend, Fox News settled a defamation suit relating to its promotion of voter fraud conspiracies in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The network announced on Sunday that it had reached an “amicable” resolution with Majed Khalil, a Venezuelan businessman who had sued Fox and its former host, Lou Dobbs, for falsely claiming that he and other Venezuelans had orchestrated “a non-existent scheme to rig or fix the election” against then-president Donald Trump. It was the latest in a string of settlements that Rupert Murdoch, the chair of Fox Corp., has made over the course of his career to defuse scandals that might plague his media empire—from the U.K. phone-hacking scandal to the sexual harassment claims brought against Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and others by female employees at Fox News. The Washington Post recently reported that Murdoch has paid out nearly $750 million in settlements since 2010.
Of course, the Khalil settlement has been overshadowed by the far more significant legal challenge that Fox News faces from Dominion Voting Systems, which is seeking $1.6 billion in damages for false claims that Fox hosts and guests repeatedly made about its voting machines. But, for that very reason, it also reignited a longstanding question among Murdoch watchers: Why hasn’t the aging mogul reached a similar settlement with Dominion?
The case, which is scheduled to go to trial next week, has already unearthed troves of embarrassing private emails and text messages between the Murdochs, Fox News executives, and on-air talent that lay bare the network’s willingness to promote baseless voter fraud conspiracies—conspiracies most of the hosts and executives clearly did not believe—in a desperate attempt to keep itself in the good graces of the MAGA faithful and compete with Newsmax. (Their concern about the competition may have been premature, especially in light of a recent Newsmax exodus, which my colleague Tara Palmeri has been keeping tabs on.)