In the 3 months that could cost Fox $1.6 billion

In the 3 months that could cost Fox $1.6 billion

In the 3 months that could cost Fox $1.6 billion

Since 2002, when Fox News first overtook CNN as the most-watched cable news channel, one thing has been as certain and predictable as its dominance: every time a Democrat wins the White House, the ratings of the right-hand network drop momentarily.

This also happened after President Biden was elected in 2020. But the reaction inside Fox was much different than before.

It was panic. Since the chairman of Fox Corporation, executives have rushed as they tried to keep viewers tuned in, thinking they were facing a crisis. Now, due to decisions made after the loss of former President Donald J. Trump, Fox News is dealing with a threat that could turn out to be much more serious.

A $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems alleges Fox knowingly spread false information about the role of the company’s election technology in a fabricated plot to reverse votes. Both sides will present closing arguments before a Delaware state court judge on Tuesday as they prepare for a trial next month.

Fox insisted that he did not present the claims about Dominion as fact, but rather reported and opined on them as any news agency would.

As part of the lawsuit, Dominion obtained thousands of internal Fox emails and text messages and deposed dozens of Fox employees. This evidence shows in extraordinary detail how the network went astray in the weeks following the election. Here is a timeline of that fateful period, as told in court documents. Some of these exchanges have been slightly condensed for clarity.

November 3, 2020

On Election Day, Fox News was riding high. A draft of an internal memo written by the executive who oversees advertising for the network, Jeff Collins, outlined the sales records the channel had just set.

Election News

• 11 of the highest-grossing 15 days in Fox News history have occurred since the first presidential debate on 9/29

• Election Day saw the highest linear earnings in Fox News history despite a significantly reduced commercial load…

• According to Kantar, Fox News has earned more political revenue than any other broadcast or cable network.

November 8

But a few days later, when Mr. Biden was declared president-elect by all major news organizations, including Fox, viewership began to dwindle. Top company executives, including Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox Corporation, and Suzanne Scott, chief executive of Fox News Media, took notice.

“Getting creamed by CNN!” wrote Rupert Murdoch, president of Fox Corporation.Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

In an email to Ms Scott, Mr Murdoch wrote:

SUBJECT: Assessments

Get creamed by CNN! I guess our viewers don’t want to watch it. Pretty hard for me!

They will come back. (Not for Chris Wallace!)

Laura Ingraham very good and kind.

Anyway, football today!

Half an hour later, Ms. Scott forwarded the email to Jay Wallace, the president of Fox News. She described her recent discussion with Mr. Murdoch and his son Lachlan, the chief executive of Fox Corporation, about how the network might begin to regroup after Trump:

SUBJECT: Fw. Ratings

A long conversation with KRM and Lachlan (told them the first 72 hours would be the worst) they expect

– major overhaul of polls (WSJ does the same and won’t work with NBC)

-the public doesn’t want to see Mayor Pete’s and Coons etc too much. at current times. Be careful with bookings the next 2 months – especially at current times

– News reporting and investigative units need to get back in the game. They were beaten by digital journalists on breaking news last year.

Talk more tomorrow – lots to think about this week.

November 10 and 11

A week after the election, a consensus quickly hardened within the network that it could not continue to lose viewers to a much smaller right-wing cable news rival, Newsmax.

Dana Perino, Fox News host and former spokeswoman for President George W. Bush, texted Colin Reed, a Republican strategist, about the simmering concern:

… But there is this RAGING issue about Fox losing tons of viewers and many are watching – get this – newsmax! Our viewers are so mad at election calls (as if our calls would have been different. They’re just votes!)

Another host, Tucker Carlson, texted his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, about viewers being angry that Mr Carlson ignored allegations of voter fraud that night on his show – a topic that Newsmax hammered out:

Alex Pfeiffer: You told me to tell you if we get attacked on Twitter, so I will. Many viewers were upset tonight that we didn’t cover voter fraud.

Tucker-Carlson: Yeah. Probably should have.

Pfeiffer: Yes, I didn’t understand why we didn’t. Suppose it’s some kind of decision not to.

Pfeiffer: But that’s all our viewers care about now

Karlson: Error.

Karlson: I hate this shit.

Pfeiffer: Yeah that’s really awful

Pfeiffer: did you see that? (Send a tweet with an excerpt from a Washington Post article that quotes an unnamed Republican official who says Mr. Trump will eventually get tired of claiming he was deceived and will leave office.)

Pfeiffer: It’s like birtherism 2.0. A grassroots movement that the GOP leadership thinks it can control and go away, but it can’t.


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