In a last-ditch agreement, US-based Dominion, a voting technology corporation, reached a settlement with Fox News just before the scheduled start of their defamation trial.
Dominion had demanded $1.6bn (£1.3bn) from Fox, accusing the network of disseminating false information about its voting machines in the 2020 presidential election.
The final settlement amount agreed upon by both parties was $787.5m.
In a statement, Fox claimed the settlement showcased its “commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”
At a press conference, Dominion CEO John Poulos referred to the “historic settlement” as involving Fox “admitting to telling lies, causing enormous damage to my company.”
The case’s opening statements were set to begin on Tuesday afternoon.
Following the completion of jury selection, the settlement announcement came after an unexplained delay of several hours, fueling rumors that settlement negotiations were taking place privately.
On Monday, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis declared a 24-hour postponement of the trial’s commencement.
While he did not provide a reason, US media suggested it was to allow both parties an opportunity to reach a settlement.
However, on Tuesday morning, both parties seemed prepared for a long trial, with a Dominion representative pledging to “prove Fox spread lies causing enormous damage.”
The settlement enables Fox to prevent several of its top executives, including chairman Rupert Murdoch and television personalities like Tucker Carlson, from testifying in public court.
Before the trial, Fox’s attorneys consistently contested the $1.6bn in damages Dominion was seeking, labeling the amount as significantly exaggerated. Media caption,
The “real cost” of the case, according to Fox, would be the “cherished” First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and press in the US Constitution.
Dominion’s lawsuit contends that the conservative network tarnished the electronic voting company’s reputation by broadcasting untruths about the 2020 election being stolen from Donald Trump.
Legal documents released before the trial indicated that several Fox executives and journalists privately doubted conspiracy theories surrounding the stolen 2020 presidential election but still aired them.
In a series of text messages, host Tucker Carlson called the allegations “absurd” and “insane,” while another host, Sean Hannity, privately stated he didn’t believe them “for one second.”
Fox maintained that the statements were taken out of context.
Before the trial, Judge Davis ruled that the baseless accusations against Dominion had already been debunked.
Fox is still facing a second, similar defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, which is seeking $2.7bn from Fox for allegedly spreading claims that the company assisted in “stealing” the 2020 election.