Fox’s top lawyer blasts judge in Dominion case, says trial would’ve been ‘months of utter pain’

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In his first public comments since Fox Corporation’s historic settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, Viet Dinh, the network’s top lawyer, blasted the judge who oversaw the election defamation case, saying Monday that he issued “illogical” rulings that “hamstrung” the right-wing network and undermined the “fairness and integrity” of the legal system.

Dinh, the outgoing chief legal and policy officer at Fox Corporation, lashed out at Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis, who presided over the historic case, which ended with Fox paying a $787 million settlement to the voting technology company.

“We knew we were right in the law, (but) the trial judge put us in a situation increasingly where it was very obvious that we were not able to win the trial, but we were very confident we would prevail on appeal,” Dinh said at a Harvard Law School event.

He continued, “As the judge compounded error upon error, we would get more and more confident in our ultimate chances of prevailing on appeal — because at some point, it became not just a matter of reversible error, it called into the fundamental fairness and integrity of the Delaware civil justice system.”

Dominion sued Fox News and its parent corporation in 2021 after Fox News hosts and guests repeatedly – and falsely – claimed on-air that Dominion voting machines rigged the 2020 election by flipping millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Fox denied wrongdoing and said its coverage was protected by the First Amendment.

Four months after the settlement, the network announced that Dinh would be leaving his post at the end of the year, though he would stay on as a “special adviser.” Dinh was reportedly a vocal advocate for not settling the suit, and his exit is a significant shakeup for Fox after criticism of how he handled the case.

Dinh said Davis issued “really illogical” rulings in the pretrial phase, which “hamstrung” Fox’s defense strategy. Davis’ decisions meant the trial would have been “three to four months of utter pain” for Fox and its employees, who would be called to testify, Dinh said, and therefore, it was a “business decision” to settle the case at the last second.

This artist sketch depicts Judge Eric Davis of Delaware Superior Court on the bench Monday, April 17, 2023, in Wilmington, Delaware.

The judge ruled that none of Fox’s on-air statements about Dominion were true and rejected Fox’s attempts to throw the case out. He also decided that Fox couldn’t argue to the jury that it gave airtime to these election lies because they were “newsworthy.”

Dinh took issue with how Davis handled the discovery process, where both parties are required to turn over documents to the other side, issuing decisions that marked a turning point in the litigation. Dominion made many of these messages public through court filings, and they painted an incredibly damning picture of Fox News.

The private communications revealed that Fox executives, on-air hosts, producers and internal fact-checkers did not believe the 2020 election conspiracy theories that were being promoted on their channel. There were also embarrassing revelations, including a text from ex-Fox News star Tucker Carlson saying that he “passionately” hated former President Donald Trump.

At the Harvard event, Dinh criticized Davis for not imposing tighter restrictions on what Fox needed to give to Dominion, arguing that at least half of the materials that the right-wing network was ultimately forced to produce were “completely irrelevant to the case.”

That paved the way for Fox employees’ private emails to be “exposed to the world” and pored over by “navel-gazing” journalists who wanted to “feed the gossip beast,” he said.

“The court lost control of the media circus, to our detriment,” Dinh said.

The Delaware Superior Court declined to comment about Dinh’s remarks.

Fox is still fighting a separate defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting machine company that was accused of rigging the 2020 election and is seeking more than $2 billion in damages. That case is still in the discovery phase.


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