Rupert Murdoch said Fox News anchors 'went too far' with false fraud claims, lawsuit shows

Texts show that primetime host Tucker Carlson 'passionately' hated Donald Trump

Images of, from left, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiromo, Stuart Varney, Neil Cavuto and Charles Payne outside News Corp headquarters in New York. AP
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News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch said some of the anchors on conservative network Fox “went too far” in their coverage of then-president Donald Trump's claims that the 2020 election was stolen, a new lawsuit has shown.

Filed by Dominion Voting Systems, the lawsuit is part of the company's $1.6 billion defamation case in which the cable news outlet is accused of promoting baseless claims that the company's voting machines were rigged to hand the election to Mr Trump's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

Among the 6,500 pages released on Tuesday was an email Mr Murdoch sent to Fox News president Suzanne Scott, asking her if it was “unarguable” that the network's primetime hosts had amplified the false claims “and that January 6th was an important chance to have the election overturned”.

“Maybe Sean and Laura went too far,” he wrote in the January 21, 2022, email, referring to hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

“All very well for Sean to tell you he was in despair about Trump but what did he tell his viewers?”

A previous filing showed a separate exchange in which Mr Murdoch wrote that it had been suggested that some of Fox's hosts should say a line similar to the “election is over and Joe Biden won”, saying that doing so “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election [was] stolen”.

Fox News has defended its coverage, saying it had a responsibility to report on the false allegations raised by Mr Trump and his allies.

The trial between Fox News and Dominion is set to begin on April 17 and expected to last five weeks.

Tucker Carlson privately critical of Mr Trump

Legal filings submitted by Dominion showed that Fox anchor Tucker Carlson, perhaps the network's most prominent anchor, secretly claimed to loathe Mr Trump.

In one text conversation two days before the January 6 insurrection, Carlson said he “passionately” hated the incumbent Republican president and said he “truly can't wait” to no longer listen to him.

Carlson came under fire from Republicans this week for showing select security footage that sought to distort the perception that the 2021 assault on the US Capitol was peaceful.

“These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers,” Carlson said as he emphasised images of the rioters taking photographs after they had invaded the building.

But that footage was only a sliver of the 41,000 hours of security footage handed to him by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger slammed Carlson's segment and “cherry-picked” distortion of events.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he was concerned how the footage was depicted.

“Clearly, the chief of the Capitol Police, in my view, correctly describes what most of us witnessed first-hand on January 6,” Mr McConnell said, holding up Chief Manger's memo.

Mr McCarthy defended handing Fox News the security footage and condemned the insurrection.

Mr Trump posted a series of messages on Truth Social on Tuesday night praising Carlson's coverage, amplifying false claims that the insurrection was peaceful and demanded that those arrested for their involvement be released from prison.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: March 08, 2023, 4:12 PM