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Fox-Dominion judge says he can compel Murdochs to testify


Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp and co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, arrives at the Sun Valley Resort of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 10, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

A Delaware judge said Wednesday that he would compel Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch, to appear live in court for the upcoming trial in Dominion Voting System’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox and its networks.

Earlier on Wednesday Dominion in a letter filed to the court urged Judge Eric Davis, who is presiding over the case, to compel both Murdochs to appear live. It also requested in-person testimony from Paul Ryan, the Republican former speaker of the House and a Fox board member, and Viet Dinh, Fox’s chief legal and policy officer.

“Fox and Dominion have made these four parties very relevant,” Davis said during a hearing on Wednesday. “It’s not the corporation that raises its hand on the stand, it’s their officers and directors that raise their hand on the stand.”

“So if Dominion wants to bring them in live, they need to do a trial subpoena and I would not quash it. I would compel them to come,” Davis added on Wednesday.

The letter comes days after the judge ruled that the lawsuit would go to trial in April.

Davis had rejected Fox’s arguments, but granted several of Dominion’s motions with the exception of its argument that Fox and its hosts acted with malice in broadcasting false claims about the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

The trial is scheduled to begin on April 17. Dominion and Fox have agreed that some of Fox’s top TV talent, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as former host Lou Dobbs and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, will appear in court to give their testimonies live.

In earlier court papers Dominion did not include the Murdochs on its list for live testimony, although it had been earlier discussed in court.

Fox had opposed Murdoch, as well as the other Fox Corp. executives, giving their testimony live in court. They had also pointed to the elder Murdoch’s age, 92, as a reason for why he couldn’t appear live in court. The judge rejected that argument during last week’s hearing.

“Dominion clearly wants to continue generating misleading stories from their friends in the media to distract from their weak case,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement. “Demanding witnesses who had nothing to do with the challenged broadcasts is just the latest example of their political crusade in search of a financial windfall.”  

On Wednesday, Davis also noted ahead of next week’s pre-trial conference, that he didn’t see Jan. 6, 2021 – the day a violent mob breached the U.S. Capitol in support of then-President Trump – as relevant in this case.

“I know that probably shocks everyone,” Davis said, adding that in developing this case and the court’s opinion, the focus is on a specific timeframe and is aware of only one statement made subsequent to Jan. 6 that is concerning Dominion.

In the trove of evidence that has come to light in this case, documents show the network’s internal response to Jan. 6, including Fox executives shutting down Trump’s attempt to appear on air that evening. That same evening Carlson texted his producer calling Trump “a demonic force. A destroyer. But he’s not going to destroy us,” referring to Fox’s network and its audience, according to court papers.

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