Lachlan Murdoch explains settlement, says no change at Fox
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News paid $787 million to settle a recent lawsuit on its reporting after the 2020 election to avoid a divisive trial and lengthy appeals process, its parent company's chief executive said on Tuesday.
Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corp., also noted that a Delaware judge “severely limited” Fox's defenses against Dominion Voting Systems, which said the network defamed it by airing bogus charges of election fraud that it knew was untrue.
Fox Corp. announced Tuesday that it had lost $50 million the previous three months, which it attributed to the lawsuit settlement. Murdoch, who answered questions from financial analysts, was speaking in public for the first time since the case ended and Fox fired its most popular anchor, Tucker Carlson.
Murdoch said viewers, and investors, should expect no change in direction from Fox News.
“We made the business decision to resolve this dispute and avoid the acrimony of a divisive trial and multi-year appeal process, a decision clearly in the best interests of the company and its shareholders,” he said.
Fox still believes it was properly exercising its First Amendment rights to report on newsworthy fraud allegations made by former President Donald Trump, even though that defense was shot down in a pre-trial court ruling in the Dominion case, Murdoch said.
That's important, since Murdoch said Fox intends to use the same defense against a similar lawsuit by another elections technology company, Smartmatic. That case is not expected to go to trial until at least 2025, he said.
Despite being asked directly about Carlson's exit, Murdoch didn't mention the former prime-time host's name and referred to his reign obliquely. Fox has not explained why it cut ties with Carlson.
“There's no change in programming strategy at Fox News,” he said. “It's obviously a successful strategy. As always, we are adjusting our programming and our lineup and that's what we continue to do.”
Although hurt by the Carlson exit, Fox News remains the leading cable news network.
Fox has lost viewers following Carlson's firing. Last week's substitute host, Lawrence Jones, reached between 1.28 million and 1.7 million last week in a time slot where Carlson usually drew around 3 million, the Nielsen company said.
Yet Fox has gained more than 40 new advertisers in that hour, the network said, confirming a report in Variety. Advertisers like Gillette, Scott's Miracle Gro and Secret deodorant that had considered Carlson's show a toxic environment have signed on.
David Bauder, The Associated Press