Lessons from the Fox News Surrender
Gutless Settlement Emboldens the Left
In the years right after the founding of our republic, French officials pressured American diplomats to pay bribes to the government of France in exchange for peaceful relations between the nations. When news of the so-called XYZ Affair broke, an outraged U.S. Senator Robert Goodloe Harper of Maryland proclaimed words that would ring through centuries of American history: “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!” A lasting national policy of not paying off foreign oppressors was born.
The old patriotic tale became relevant anew this week when Fox News, after suffering leftist lawfare and a biased judge, settled its litigation with Dominion Voting Systems by agreeing to pay a staggering $788 million. The settlement was a fiscal and moral surrender. Fox News abandoned any attempt to defend their reporting and analysis of the 2020 elections, as well as genuine concerns predominant among the Trump half of the country that dirty tactics were used to secure the presidency for Joe Biden.
The establishment narrative of the 2020 elections—“Nothing to see here, everyone move along”—has been pressed relentlessly and viciously by the Left since the days following the election. Gradually some MAGA loyalists have folded, such as Trump 2020 attorney Jenna Ellis (as analyzed in an earlier column). Fox News’ capitulation is of an entirely different order. This gargantuan settlement is calamitous in the precedent it sets, the influence it will have on remaining litigation against much smaller conservative media, and the integrity and future of Fox News itself.
In its statement about the settlement, Fox News essentially conceded that Judge Eric Davis’ outrageous granting of summary judgment to Dominion on the heart of the case—as I described in my last column—destroyed Fox’s ability to defend itself. As the Washington Post noted, “legal scholars had called Davis’s ruling disastrous for Fox because it stripped away a key line of defense.” The leftist judge ruled as a matter of law that all claims made on Fox about Dominion and the 2020 elections were false, and the jury would be so instructed. By not letting the jury decide this central question about the 2020 elections, Davis delivered a fundamental attack on the right to a trial by jury.
No Stomach for the Fight
Fox effectively admitted that this ruling forced its appeasement strategy. In what the fake news construed as an apology, the network stated, “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false” (emphasis added). To its credit, Fox did not concede the judge’s tyrannical ruling was correct. In fact, Fox’s attorneys told the media they believed they could’ve won on appeal. But there would be none. The case was over, as the winning plaintiff virtually backed up a long convoy of Brinks trucks to the side of the Delaware courthouse.
Fox had a duty to stand up for their loyal, long-time viewers and for the truth. They betrayed that duty. Now, viewers rightly will question and discount every word uttered on the network in defense of conservative principles.
If Fox’s own attorneys judged they would win on appeal, why did Fox relent? Quite simply its leaders didn’t have the stomach for the fight. Fighting would’ve meant weeks of fake-news coverage of Fox corporate leaders, Fox News hosts and others testifying and defending their actions in a kangaroo court. This is not an easy assignment, and I have walked in those shoes. But Fox had a duty to stand up for their loyal, long-time viewers and for the truth. They betrayed that duty. Now, viewers rightly will question and discount every word uttered on the network in defense of conservative principles. Those statements may prove to be insincere and subject to negotiation once the Left turns up the heat sufficiently on Fox and its owners.
Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his sons, who run Fox, learned two things the hard way. First, because of the Left’s hegemony in today’s society, their trade of providing news to MAGA world is lucrative but not without unfair costs, both financial and social. Second, the Left’s dominance extends to the legal arena, as shown by Judge Davis’ open leftist bias and merry sabotage of Fox’s defenses.
Murdoch’s testimony in his deposition was illuminating. At one point he volunteered his opinion, “The election was not stolen.” Murdoch could have acknowledged his customers had legitimate concerns that deserved fair treatment and reporting, wherever the facts might lead his employees. But that would’ve required bucking the accepted establishment narrative. And that would’ve further marginalized the Murdochs among the elite class in which they move.
Much smaller right-leaning media still face ominous litigation from these same emboldened and enriched foes. Newsmax and One America News Network have nowhere near the resources of Fox to offer a comparable settlement sop. Meanwhile media purveyors of the anti-Trump Russiagate smear and the “Russia disinformation” claims about the Hunter Biden laptop face no litigation or even tough, persistent questions.
Even with this surrender, the trouble is not over for Fox—and actually has dumped more blood in the water. Smartmatic, another company that makes and runs electronic voting systems, is also suing Fox and demanding even more than Dominion, $2.7 billion. Fox’s tough talk about the Smartmatic lawsuit the day after their capitulation to Dominion seemed phony and pathetic. Other lawsuits are piling up. A Fox shareholder recently sued Murdoch for breach of fiduciary duty for failing to prevent the network from inviting Trump campaign attorneys and spokespeople onto its shows. Additional companies with ties to Fox may do the same. Former Fox producer Abby Grossberg’s lawsuit, alleging attempts to influence her testimony in the Dominion litigation, has been tossed into the hopper. Unless thousands of years of recorded history mean nothing, the Murdochs will learn at some point that appeasement is generally not an effective strategy for warding off insatiable bullies.
Profit Over Principle
Can Fox retain its viewers despite this betrayal? Given their strong brand and the lack of alternative choices for news without leftist bias, it seems likely they will—even if conservatives must now question their commitment to principle. In the trajectory of conservative companies accused of disavowing their customers’ values, Fox News seems much more on the track of Chick-fil-A than of, say, Black Rifle Coffee.
When we watch Fox News henceforth, we must remember their programs are aired for entertainment and profit—and their words may be recanted based on self-interest. That is the cold, unvarnished legacy of Fox News’ spineless settlement.
Chick-fil-A overcame lesser but comparable controversy a few years ago. The company was able to keep its Christian customer base despite trying to appease gay-rights activists by ceasing its donations to Christian organizations opposing same-sex marriage, then paying their own sort of tribute to far-left organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. Chick-fil-A’s strong brand, longevity and high quality helped tamp down any lasting rebellion.
In contrast, Black Rifle Coffee built up a loyal online customer following among conservatives and patriots, but its brand is of much more recent vintage. The company alienated customers when, after announcing ambitious expansion plans and a public stock offering, its CEO harshly denounced January 6 defendants in an interview with the hard-left New York Times. Then, the company invited a Category 5 hurricane unto itself when it disastrously distanced itself from Kyle Rittenhouse, in response to a public photo of him wearing a Black Rifle Coffee T-shirt after being released on bail. Second Amendment advocates tore into the company on YouTube and elsewhere. A little over a year after their initial stock offering, Black Rifle’s stock has lost more than 85 percent of its peak market value, and at least one analyst is questioning the company’s long-term viability.
Whether or not Fox News can ride out the storm, this latest major defeat for the Right reminds us of the urgency of long-overdue basic reforms. The legal system is rotting from decades of leftist poison and aggression tracing back to law schools—and the refusal of RINO leaders during that same time to address the problem. A Fortress Strategy of extracting leftist bias from law schools, bar associations and courts in red states is more needed than ever. We are again reminded of the folly of trying to fix these deeply rooted problems with a single, simple election or lawsuit. The Left patiently and doggedly created this mess; we must show the same resolve and patience in return—and get started immediately in our red-state redoubts.
In the meantime, when we watch Fox News henceforth, we must remind ourselves that the words being said there ultimately are delivered for entertainment and profit. As ringing and righteous as they sound, their statements may or may not be sincere; they may in fact be recanted based on corporate self-interest. That is the cold, unvarnished legacy of Fox News’ spineless settlement.
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