Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that some of the commentators on his Fox television network endorsed former president Donald Trump's debunked claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
The admission from the News Corp chief executive came during a deposition as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against the right-wing network by Dominion Voting Systems. The suit alleges that Fox promoted false claims that the voting-machine company changed votes in the election from Mr Trump to challenger Joe Biden.
The media tycoon rejected the idea that Fox News as a company endorsed the claims but acknowledged some of the network's personalities — including Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity — promoted them.
“Some of our commentators were endorsing it,” he said, according to a court filing that included transcripts of his February 8 deposition.
“About their endorsement of a stolen election?” a lawyer asked him.
Mr Murdoch responded: “Yes. They endorsed.”
He said he had immediate doubts over the fraud claims, pointing to Fox News calling Arizona for Mr Biden. Mr Murdoch said he was “very much aware” that Mr Trump was angry about the Arizona call.
“It is fair to say you seriously doubted any claim of massive election fraud?” the lawyer asked.
“Oh, yes,” Mr Murdoch said.
“And you seriously doubted it from the very beginning?”
He replied: “Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up. I think that was shown when we announced Arizona.”
Mr Murdoch also conceded he could have done more to stop Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell — two of Mr Trump's lawyers who were central players in pushing the baseless conspiracy theories — from appearing on Fox.
“I could have. But I didn't.”
Mr Trump on Tuesday repeated his false claims, saying Fox was "too scared and frightened to reveal the massive amounts of fraud".
"Instead FoxNews wants to silence its anchors and reporters, the reason so many of their viewers fled," he wrote on his Truth Social app.
Providing information on Biden advertisements
In the lawsuit, Dominion said Mr Murdoch had provided Jared Kushner, Mr Trump's son-in-law and adviser, “Fox confidential information about Biden's ads, along with debate strategy” in the run-up to the election.
But Mr Murdoch refused to help the then-president on election night after the network called Arizona for Mr Biden.
“My friend Jared Kushner called me saying, 'This is terrible,' and I could hear Trump's voice in the background shouting,” Mr Murdoch said in the deposition.
“And I said, Well, the numbers are the numbers.'”
Fox's calling of Arizona set off a torrent of criticism in conservative circles, Dominion's court filing states.
The network called the election for Mr Biden on November 7, 2020.
Afterwards, Mr Murdoch told his son Lachlan: “We should and could have gone first but at least being second saves us a Trump explosion!”
The day after, Mr Murdoch told Col Allan, editor at News Corp's New York Post, that Mr Giuliani was a “terrible influence” on Mr Trump, to which Mr Allan called Mr Giuliani “unhinged”.
In its own filing released earlier this month, Fox defended its coverage of the election and argued that it had a right to report Mr Trump's fraud allegations.
Fox News argued its coverage was protected under the First Amendment and was not defamatory because its hosts did not endorse the claims, The New York Times reported, citing a court filing.
The Dominion Voting Systems-Fox trial is scheduled to begin in April.