Fox News anchor Howard Kurtz on Sunday finally weighed in on the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against his employer.
Kurtz had previously said he “strongly” disagreed with the conservative network’s decision not to allow him to report or write about the case given that he is part of the organization being sued.
But that changed this weekend.
“Now that all the legal filings are in and a judge in Delaware will give consideration this month to whether the case goes to trial, it’s time for me to weigh in,” Kurtz said.
During a four-minute segment on his “MediaBuzz” show, Kurtz said he wasn’t “sugarcoating” Dominion’s allegations “or the fact that Fox has taken a hit in the court of public opinion.”
But he said the lawsuit represented a “major test of the First Amendment.”
“Legally, Dominion must prove Fox acted with malice or reckless disregard for the truth,” he said. “There was, to be sure, straight reporting by the news division, which also caused some friction.”
Court filings by Dominion revealed top Fox News anchors and executives privately condemned election lies spread by Donald Trump and his allies about the 2020 election, but still chose to amplify them on the network.
“Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy,” Laura Ingraham wrote in a text message to fellow anchor Tucker Carlson in reference to former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.
In another message, Carlson told an undisclosed person it was “shockingly reckless” to claim that Dominion acted to rig the election in favor of now-President Joe Biden without any evidence.
But Kurtz cautioned that the private dismissal of Trump’s election lies didn’t necessarily mean the network couldn’t report or comment on “the extremely newsworthy spectacle of a president saying an election was stolen.”
“That’s why this case is a major test of the First Amendment,” Kurtz added.
Dominion sued Fox News for defamation, claiming that the network knowingly amplified false allegations about the company’s voting machines to boost its ratings.
The network has in turn accused Dominion of waging a PR campaign to “smear” it “and trample on free speech.”
During his show, Kurtz appeared to recognize that the network was concerned about alienating viewers.
“The period under scrutiny began as Fox’s ratings were dropping after the network projected that Joe Biden had won Arizona, and despite tremendous pressure, the network stood by the Decision Desk’s accurate call,” Kurtz said.
Fox was the first network to call Arizona for Biden, but that decision was met with unease even within the organization. Fox News anchor Bret Baier reportedly called on his higher-ups to reverse the call.