The Fox News Defense Center vs. Dominion, Part 2
When Fox News abruptly settled the defamation lawsuit against it by paying Dominion $787 million, the Media Research Center complained that some thought Fox News hadn't suffered enough, then declared it didn't matter because narratives trump facts.
By Terry Krepel
As Dominion's defamation lawsuit against Fox News inched closer to its scheduled trial date, the Media Research Center -- which has struggled to figure out how to defend its favorite right-wing "news" channel (when it wasn't deliberately ignoring the lawsuit, that is) over the revelations that Fox News lied to its viewers by portraying Donald Trump's claims of election fraud as valid when it knew they were bogus -- continued to try and defend its Fox friends.
MRC executive Tim Graham -- whose main comments about the lawsuit thus far had been largely centered about fretting that the lawsuit gave the hated "liberal media" a legitimate reason to criticize right-wing media -- spent his March 31 column complaining that actual journalists called out Fox News for spreading lies:
America’s journalism elite has a nasty habit of associating journalism with liberalism. They only believe in half of a First Amendment. They don’t believe in press freedom for the conservative media...because they think those outlets should be shunned as fake-news factories.
Graham didn't explain why it was was "bizarre" for Fox News to call Arizona for Biden, especially given that the call was proven correct. He also glossed over the fact that discovery in the Dominion lawsuit showed that Fox News portrayed Trump election fraud claims as plausible when it knew they were not -- which, of course, is the reason the SPJ criticized Fox News. Instead, it was whataboutism time again:
That sounds great as a principle, but is that applied to all media outlets? Try Googling “SPJ statement on CNN” and see if you can find them ever whacking CNN for deliberately misleading their audience on anything. If someone sued CNN or NBC, do we think we would never find juicy texts like Fox’s?
Again, Graham failed to mention that Fox News knew it was spreading that fake news. He concluded by dismissing Fox News critics as nothing but haters while warning about the purported dangers of the Dominion lawsuit:
The SPJ and these other Fox haters are too lost in their negative emotions to appreciate that if Fox News loses in court to Dominion, it opens the rest of the media to lawsuits whenever they pass along allegations that turn out to be false. The legal system doesn’t have a double standard on this. Only the “professional journalists” do.
Of course, one does not have to be a professional journalist to know that Fox News deliberately lied to its viewers and that it falsely smeared Dominion.
Graham wrote a column on April 14 similarly dismissing Fox News critics as a bunch of haters:
NPR is a platform that has demonstrated an incredibly aggressive interest in undermining the credibility of Fox News Channel and the public’s understanding of how it balances out NPR’s relentless liberal bias and censorship.
Graham's well-paid job is to undermine the credibility of any media outlet that's not as far-right as he is. He's also misconstruing Peters' words about the right-wing media bubble. The issue is not that conservatives don't know about the Dominion lawsuit, it's that they don't want to admit the truth about what has been revealed -- namely, that Fox News lied to its viewers and falsely defamed Dominion -- so they portray any negative news about Fox News as the product of a biased "liberal media," not something based in reality (as Graham has repeatedly done and is doing here).
Graham concluded with more of the same (and whataboutism too):
Peters says if Fox News loses this case, “it says that one of the most powerful media organizations in the country has to pay for the dishonest way it covered our democracy.” Peters added “I don’t know that those kinds of lessons of accountability will sink in with the average conservative.”
Note that Graham said absolutely nothing about Fox News needing to be held accountable for its indisputable wrongdoings. And of course, as ConWebWatch has pointed out, if right-wing media wanted Hunter Biden's laptop to be taken seriously before the election, they should have provided independent verification of its authenticity that would have overcome the fact that pro-Trump outlets and operatives were pushing it.
Graham went the whataboutism route yet again for his April 17 podcast:
CBS's Sunday Morning spent nine minutes promoting the dangers Dominion's lawsuit posed to Fox News. It sounded quite similar to a 60 Minutes piece on the same theme last October. But would CBS find it just as newsworthy when Dan Rather sued CBS in 2007 over his phony-documents story? Would anyone be interested in the juicy documents exposing CBS as "corrosive"? Back then, the liberal media professed no interest in this, and the suit was dismissed. Rather wasn't the scapegoat. He was responsible for his mess.
Graham continued that whataboutism by whining that NPR's David Folkenflik claimed that Fox News was creating an information silo and "building a business on serving an ideological base, as if that's not the model for NPR." There was apparently no mention of the fact that Fox News was also doing that very same siloing by trying to censor news about the Dominion lawsuit on its own channel.
When Fox News decided the next day -- the day the trial was to start -- to settle with Dominion by paying the company a whopping 787.5 million, the MRC suggested this was a victory of sorts for Fox and complained when others suggested Fox News hadn't suffered enough. Kevin Tober whined in an April 18 post:
On Tuesday, CNN Tonight co-host Alisyn Camerota took to the airwaves during The Lead With Jake Tapper to bemoan that Fox News Channel was able to settle out of court in the Dominion lawsuit for about half of the original $1.6 billion lawsuit without publicly apologizing. She declared that this was a “victory for Fox” and that this was “the best outcome that Fox could ever have hoped for.”
Tober then personally attacked Camerota, followed by a fit of whataboutism:
It’s obvious that Camerota and the rest of CNN was extremely bitter because in their eyes, Fox wad now saved from embarrassing details that could come out if the lawsuit went to trial.
Actually, it's entirely likely that Sandmann received little more than token going-away money from CNN, which did not have to issue an apology under the settlement. He also didn't mention that Sandmann's lawyer was L. Lin Wood, who went on to prove his incompetence by going full QAnon and spouting election fraud conspiracy theories.
(Houck went even further in personally smearing Camerota on Twitter, maliciously calling her criticism of the settlement a "case of a crazy ex-girlfriend.")
Mark Finkelstein complained that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough brought up his own history of being defamed in the media:
Joe Scarborough is notorious for dragging his background as a former Congressman into the Morning Joe conversation at every opportunity. So much so, that his self-centered obsession has become something of a running joke on the show.
Finkelstein didn't elaborate on what kind of scandal Scarborough is purportedly hiding. Perhaps he should in order to avoid a defamation lawsuit of his own.
Bill D'Agostino also groused that it was argued that Fox News didn't suffer enough (with added whataboutism, of course):
On Tuesday Dominion Voting Systems settled its lawsuit against Fox News, sparing the media company from six very uncomfortable weeks in court. The settlement was a heartbreaking development for the leftwing media, who had been preparing eagerly to cover every moment of the court proceedings.
D'Agostino provided no evidence that CNN or MSNBC engaged in a systematic campaign to lie to its viewers the way Fox News did.
When the co-hosts of "The View" raised concern about how Fox News' lies might affect members of the military who watch the channel, Nicholas Fondacaro flew into a rage:
In the wake of Fox News’s defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems on Wednesday, the vicious liberals of ABC’s The View lashed out and bashed America’s brave men and women in the armed services for daring to watch Fox News on base, even going so far as the call them “racialized” dangers to the country.
Fondacaro didn't explain why Fox News must be allowed to feed lies to people, nor did he explain that members of the military are subjected to military policy, which does not necessarily include the ability to be able to watch channels that feed them lies. Instead, there was even more whataboutism with Fondacaro huffing that the show "continued to proudly be a home for 2016 election lies."
An April 22 "flashback" post by Rich Noyes played the victimhood card, lamenting that poor Fox News has always been a target of the "liberal media" and suggesting that good ratings excuse the lies:
Fox News’s liberal competitors are happy at this week’s news that the network will pay nearly $800 million in damages to settle a lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, but they are sad that the settlement means they won’t be able to jab Fox with the daily negative headlines they could hope for from a trial.
Of course, "liberal media" critiques have nothing to do with Fox News choosing to lie to its viewers about election fraud, and popularity does not equal moral superiority as Noyes seems to suggest.
Mark Finkelstein spent an April 24 post complaining that a Dominion lawyer said the settlement doesn't restore the company's reputation that was destroyed by lies from right-wingers (like Fox News):
Cry me a river788 million miles long!
Finkelstein didn't explain where Dominion should go to get its reputation back, or why his fellow right-wingers won't do their part by admitting they were wrong to spread false conspiracy theories about the company.
In an April 25 post, Clay Waters complained that critics wanted to see evidence that Fox News had learned something from falsely defaming Dominion:
Before the Tucker Carlson stunner, the Jeremy Peters “Media Memo” on the front of Monday’s New York Times Business section was headlined “Will the Fox-Dominion Settlement Affect Its News Coverage? Don’t Count on It." Peters went beyond the embarrassing particulars of the Fox News settlement with Dominion Voting Systems to hint racism at the right-leaning network, and also chided it for not showing “humility” by bowing to Democratic President Biden after the settlement.
Waters then got mad at the Times writer for calling out Fox News for continuing to give airtime to election fraud conspiracy theories:
Peters lamented that Jesse Watters didn't push back on Clay Travis when he claimed Biden “only won by 20,000 votes after they rigged the entire election, after they hid everything associated with Hunter Biden, with the big tech, with the big media, and with the big Democrat Party collusion that all worked in his favor.”
All of Waters' whataboutism obscured the fact that he wouldn't criticize Fox News for still spreading lies and conspiracy theories.
Graham spins again
Graham spent his April 19 podcast rehashing what his minions put out the day of the settlement -- that is, lots of whataboutism and lots of complaining that some were disappointed that Fox News didn't have to apologize to spreading lies about Dominion. It was a bit of an echo of the February podcast in which he similarly played whataboutism as lawsuit filings reveal just how deliberately Fox News lied to its viewers.
SCHNEIDER: What did Fox do that was so horrible, so horrible that was worth 7.8 or ... Lou Dobbs tweeted out that his guest, Sidney Powell, said that she has no doubt that Dominion was able to manipulate the vote. All he did was quote that he will have a guest who says this. And that was really worth $787 million.
Not only did Graham nor anyone else at the MRC raise these concerns about Powell, Ellis and the election fraud claims emanating from both the Trump campaign and Fox News -- to the contrary, it uncritically embraced those falsehoods -- it manufactured its own conspiracy theories about the election to claim it was stolen from Donald Trump. We've also documented how the MRC tried to insert Powell into its victimhood narrative after she was suspended from social media for spreading election misinformation, so it's a bit rich for Graham and Schneider to finally get around to disavowing her.
Graham went on to dismiss all of that truth-admitting, arguing that Fox News didn't suffer much "reputational damage" from the settlement because "people who think Fox News doesn't do news thought that before, have been thinking that for decades," while "conservatives see this as the latest attempt by the liberal media to undermine Fox News, so there's going to be a rally-around-Rupert effect." He then added: "This won't damage Fox's reputation -- or let's put it this way: It won't damage people's reliance on Fox to try and balance out what the liberal media does."
In other words, Graham is saying that pushing the correct narratives is more important to conservatives than being told the truth. And people wonder why anyone should trust Fox News or any other right-wing media outlet, or why the MRC whines so much when NewsGuard points out how untrustworthy right-wing media is.
That was followed by Schneider uniroinically rehashing his employer's conspiracy theory about the 2020 election, which involved buying biased polls from Trump's campaign pollster and the polling firm founded by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway to complain that not enough people knew about Hunter Biden's laptop. Graham was happy to echo that conspiracy:
GRAHAM: This is the interesting part, where they'll say we took a poll -- Geraghty says this -- you know, you take a poll and say, "did Biden legitimately win?" I think the key there is the word "legitimately." Because anybody who looks at these polls and says, if there's the risk that if these people had actually reported in real time on the Hunter Biden laptop, that this could have changed the election. Obviously, this election was in some states very close, and so, yes, it's quite possible that just by these voters by not voting for Biden, whether or not they voted for Trump, could have affected the results. So I would say, did Biden win? He did, but he won, as we've tried to demonstrate, by suppressing damaging information.
Graham then went the whataboutism route again, complaining yet again about Anita Hill and women who accused Brett Kavanaugh of untoward behavior, as well as bringing up the CNN settlement with Nicholas Sandmann.
Graham's April 21 column didn't comment much about the Fox News-Dominion settlement despite that being the news peg it was based on; instead, it was almost entirely whataboutism -- mostly whining about BuzzFeed publishing the Steele dossier (while downplaying the fact that BuzzFeed never presented the dossier as fact), huffily insisting that those who promoted the dossier have no moral standing to criticize Fox News. But if Graham is going to give a pass to Fox News' lies, what moral standing does he have to criticize others?