(WASHINGTON) — Fox Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch privately bashed then-President Donald Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, following the 2020 election, according to court records made public on Tuesday as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News.
Murdoch wrote that Trump and Giuliani were “both increasingly mad” — using the British expression for “crazy” — in an email whose contents were read during a deposition taken as part of the lawsuit.
The voting machine company has filed court documents containing private communications from Fox News personnel appearing to cast doubt on claims that Dominion’s voting machines had somehow rigged the presidential election in Joe Biden’s favor.
Tuesday’s newly unveiled records included additional correspondence between Fox network executives and on-air hosts regarding Trump’s claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him.
“The real danger is what he might do as president,” Murdoch wrote of Trump, according to a transcript of the deposition. “Apparently not sleeping and bouncing off walls!”
Murdoch also acknowledged in a Jan. 21, 2021, email to a Fox News executive that “maybe Sean and Laura went too far,” referring to Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, two primetime hosts who echoed Trump’s claims of election fraud. The email was sent in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“All very well for Sean to tell you he was in despair about Trump, but what did he tell his viewers?” Murdoch wrote.
The thousands of pages of new documents provide additional evidence that network leaders privately acknowledged that Biden had won the election despite what Fox News’ on-air personalities told their viewers.
In response to the documents, Fox News officials said that Dominion was misleading the public by not providing the full context behind some of the quotes. In one example, Hannity’s statement about election fraud that he “did not believe it for one second,” which was included in an early Dominion filing, was only a partial quote and did not include that he said that he “waited for the proof.”
“Thanks to today’s filings, Dominion has been caught red-handed using more distortions and misinformation in their PR campaign to smear FOX News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press,” Fox News officials said in a statement. “We already know they will say and do anything to try to win this case, but to twist and even misattribute quotes to the highest levels of our company is truly beyond the pale.”
Other documents released Tuesday show one of Fox’s biggest stars, Tucker Carlson, privately saying that he hated Trump “passionately.”
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights,” Carlson privately wrote on Jan. 4, 2021, according to the documents. “I truly can’t wait.”
“I hate him passionately,” he said.
Separately, in a group chat between Carlson, Hannity and Ingraham, the Fox News hosts vented privately about the network, its declining ratings, and their fellow employees in mid-November, the records show.
“We are all officially working for an organization that hates us,” Ingraham wrote on Nov. 16, 2020, according to the documents. “My anger at the news channel is pronounced,” she said later.
“I’m disgusted at this point,” Hannity said later in the conversation, per the records.
The new material also documents backlash to Fox News’ decision to call Arizona for Biden before other networks had done so. After Fox News made the call, Bret Baier, the network’s chief political anchor, urged executives to “back off AZ” and retract the call.
“The sooner we pull it — even if it gives us major egg … the better we are. In my opinion,” Baier wrote on Nov. 5.
Murdoch also said during his deposition as part of the lawsuit that he “never” believed the theory that the voting company was involved in an effort to “delegitimize and destroy votes for Donald Trump.”
“I never believed it,” he said during his deposition on Jan. 19, 2023, according to a more complete transcript that was released as part of the newer documents.
But elsewhere in the deposition, Murdoch acknowledged Trump’s importance, saying “nobody wants Trump as an enemy.”
When asked why, Murdoch said “because he had a great following, big.”
“Seventy-five million people voted for him,” Murdoch said.
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