Fox Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch was due to be questioned under oath this week in a defamation lawsuit over his network’s coverage of unsubstantiated vote-rigging claims during the 2020 US presidential election.
Election technology company Dominion Voting Systems is seeking $1.6 billion in damages from Fox News Network, which it has accused of spreading untrue claims that its machines were used to rig the 2020 election against Republican Donald Trump and in favour of his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Fox has argued that it had a right to repeat Mr Trump’s claims of vote manipulation, labelling it “reporting” and that Dominion’s lawsuit goes against freedom of the press.
A judge rejected the network’s bid to toss the case in December 2021.
“From the highest levels down, Fox knowingly spread lies,” Dominion said.
Dominion is also suing other conservative media outlets and commentators who accused the company of conspiring to overthrow Mr Trump.
Mr Murdoch, who is 91, is the highest-profile individual to be questioned by lawyers for Dominion, according to a filing in Delaware Superior Court. The session was closed to the public.
Dominion has also sought emails and other forms of communication from Mr Murdoch, his eldest son Lachlan and Fox News personnel as it looks to substantiate that the network either knew the statements it aired were false or recklessly disregarded their accuracy.
That is the standard of “actual malice”, which public figures must prove to prevail in defamation cases.
Dominion alleged in its March 2021 lawsuit that Fox amplified the false theories to boost its ratings and stay abreast of hard-right competitors including One America News Network, which Dominion is also suing.
The complaint cited instances where, in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, allies of Mr Trump such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell appeared on Fox News and falsely claimed Dominion software may have manipulated vote counts in favour of Mr Biden.
Mr Murdoch’s high-stakes deposition on Tuesday comes at a time when Dominion has spent the past several months questioning a parade of Fox News hosts, executives and producers.
On December 5, Lachlan, the executive chairman and chief executive of Fox Corp, sat for a deposition in Los Angeles. Mr Murdoch’s other son, James, was questioned in October.
Fox hosts and co-hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro and Bret Baier have also been questioned in recent months, court records show, as well as former host Lou Dobbs.
Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace have also sat for depositions.
Reuters contributed to this report