Fox News Hosts Pushed Election Lies To Improve Ratings, Court Docs Allege

“It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” a Fox News executive allegedly texted a colleague in December 2020.

Fox News hosts knew the voter fraud conspiracies they repeated ad nauseam after the 2020 presidential election were false, yet pushed them anyway in a bid to improve the right-wing network’s ratings, newly released court filings allege.

The 192-page document, produced as part of an ongoing $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems, features what it says are comments and text messages between senior Fox News executives and the network’s star hosts.

In private, the document purports to show that the network’s top decision makers and on-air talent slammed the various voter fraud allegations and election lies ― which they then proceeded to spread via their own programming.

“Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” Fox star Tucker Carlson allegedly texted fellow host Laura Ingraham in November 2020, referring to Donald Trump’s campaign lawyer.

According to the court document, Ingraham replied: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy [Giuliani].”

“It’s unbelievably offensive to me,” Carlson allegedly wrote back. “Our viewers are good people and they believe it.”

Days later, in a message to someone whose name is redacted in the court document, Carlson allegedly said it was “shockingly reckless” to claim that Dominion rigged the election if there was no actual evidence or documentation “showing they did it.” “As you know there isn’t,” Carlson added.

That’s a strikingly different tone than the one he struck in a group text including fellow host Sean Hannity, in which Carlson attacked a Fox News reporter who’d fact-checked a Trump tweet about Dominion. In that message, according to the court document, he called for the reporter to be fired.

A person participating in a "Truth Tuesday" protest holds up a sign outside Fox News headquarters on June 14, 2022, in New York City.
A person participating in a "Truth Tuesday" protest holds up a sign outside Fox News headquarters on June 14, 2022, in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

In a group text thread between Ingraham, Hannity and Carlson on Nov. 12, Carlson allegedly highlighted a tweet from Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich, who cited “top election infrastructure officials” to confirm that “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

“Please get her fired,” Carlson texted Ingraham and Hannity, according to the document. “Seriously ... What the fuck? I’m actually shocked ... It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”

By morning, Heinrich had deleted the fact-checking tweet.

In other private excerpts, Carlson allegedly referred to the Trump campaign’s claims ― and the advisers spreading them ― as “ludicrous” and “totally off the rails.”

Other executives and on-air personalities allegedly used similar language to describe the claims and the people promoting them, including Hannity (“F’ing lunatics”), anchor Dana Perino (“nuts”), host Maria Bartiromo (“kooky”), and Raj Shah, Fox Corporation senior vice president (“MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS”).

According to the document, in December 2020 ― as rival network Newsmax leaned into the election fraud falsehoods and Fox News found itself a step behind and losing viewers ― Fox News senior vice president Bill Sammon remarked to a colleague, political editor Chris Stirewalt: “It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things.”

Fox News didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost, but in a statement to The New York Times, the network accused Dominion of having “mischaracterized the record, cherry-picked quotes stripped of key context and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law.”

The trial, to be heard by Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis, is scheduled to begin in mid-April.

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