May 24, 2024

© Drew Angerer/Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty
Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire co-founder of Fox News, in Sun Valley, Idaho in 2018. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WILMINGTON, Del. — An attorney for Dominion Voting Systems alleged Tuesday that Fox News withheld information that would have entitled Dominion to obtain more of network co-founder Rupert Murdoch’s communications in the election-technology company’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit.

Justin Nelson, an attorney for Dominion, told the judge in the case that the company had been led to believe that Murdoch held the title of officer only for Fox’s parent company. But over the past few days, he said, Dominion learned that the mogul also holds an officer title for Fox News.

“This alone has meant that we are missing a whole bunch of Rupert Murdoch documents that we otherwise would have been entitled to,” Nelson said. “It’s very troubling that this is where we are. It’s something that has really affected how we have litigated this case.”

Judge Eric M. Davis echoed Nelson’s frustration with Fox, saying the missing information about Murdoch’s title may have affected his decision-making regarding a recent ruling that narrowed the scope of the case. “I could have made an entirely wrong decision,” Davis said.

Addressing an attorney for Fox News, the judge said the network has a “credibility problem.”

Earlier: Judge bars Dominion from mentioning Jan. 6 riot in Fox defamation trial

“My problem is that it’s been represented more than once to me that he’s not an officer of Fox News,” Davis said. “I need to feel comfortable that when you represent something to me, it’s the truth. I’m not very happy right now. I don’t know why this is such a difficult thing.”

Dominion is suing Fox over false claims that allies of Donald Trump made on its programs alleging that the company rigged its voting machines to flip the 2020 election to Joe Biden. Internal Fox communications made public as part of the discovery process showed Murdoch, among many other Fox executives and hosts, expressing deep skepticism over these claims, even as the network continued to air them.

It remains unclear whether the 92-year-old billionaire will testify during the trial, which starts with jury selection Thursday. Davis said at a previous hearing that he believes Murdoch is relevant enough to the case to be compelled to testify, but no appearance has been scheduled yet.

An attorney for Fox said Murdoch’s Fox News officership was an “honorific” and pointed out that Murdoch gave his corporate title, chair of Fox Corp., during his deposition. A spokesperson for Fox Corp pointed out that “Rupert Murdoch has been listed as executive chairman of Fox News in our [Securities and Exchange Commission] filings for several years and this filing was referenced by Dominion’s own attorney during his deposition.”

Because Dominion sued Fox Corp. as well as Fox News, the voting-technology company had the opportunity to interview Murdoch and to obtain some of his communications, though Nelson claimed that more documentation should have been forthcoming. Nelson said Dominion is “still evaluating our options.”

Ultimately, the judge said Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate that the revelation will derail the case but that he still needs to determine how to handle the matter.

“I don’t know if this is something we have to turn the battleship around, that it’s that big of a deal,” he said. “We’ll deal with it.”

But at the end of the hearing, the judge circled back to the new revelation. “I’m not mad at you,” he told Fox’s attorney. “I’m mad at the situation I’m in. So, I have to figure out how I deal with that.”

This story was updated at 9:30 p.m. to include a statement from Fox Corp.