Fox News Internal Texts And Emails Show Network’s Scramble In Aftermath Of 2020 Election And January 6th: “Maybe Sean And Laura Went Too Far,” Rupert Murdoch Wrote

A huge release of text messages, emails and deposition transcripts dropped on Tuesday in the Dominion vs. Fox litigation sheds further light on the scramble among Fox News personalities and Fox Corp. executives to respond to the backlash in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election and then the repercussions after the attack on the Capitol on January 6th.

In one email that Rupert Murdoch sent to Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott on Jan. 21, 2021, he wrote, “Big morning with McConnell meeting with Graham and other anti-impeachers.

“Still getting mud thrown at us! Is it ‘unarguable that high profile Fox voices fed tha story that the election was stolen and that January 6th an important chance to have the result overturned’? Maybe Sean and Laura went too far. All very well for Sean to tell you he was in despair about Trump but what did he tell his viewers.”

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Fox News faced criticism earlier on Tuesday for the way that its most popular primetime host, Tucker Carlson, downplayed the January 6th attack. On his show on Monday evening, Carlson aired the first of Capitol Hill surveillance footage from that day, arguing that it showed that those who stormed the Capitol were “not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.” Carlson’s revision of the events drew a rebuke from Capitol Police chief Thomas Manger and from McConnell, who said that it was a “mistake” for the network to depict the events of that day that way.

The Dominion lawsuit exhibits also show the tension between the news side of Fox and its opinion hosts, who groused over the network’s early call of Arizona for Joe Biden, the first indication that Donald Trump would lose the election. That angered the Trump White House, with the then-president urging followers to turn to Newsmax and One America News Network, smaller conservative outlets that more fully embraced his election claims.

In one exchange, the network’s primetime hosts — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham — groused over the news side.

“We are all officially working for an organization that hates us,” Ingraham wrote.

Ingraham alleged that Irene Briganti, Fox News’ head of communications, was “coordinating” a defense of the network’s news side. “Without question,” Carlson wrote. “She hates us.” He then claimed that Briganti called writer Victor David Hanson to pen a piece defending Chris Wallace and the network’s call of Arizona.

“What?” Hannity wrote.

“That’s true,” Carlson responded.

“Why would anyone defend that call,” Carlson wrote.

“Irena hates prime time, Trust me. That’s not speculation.”

Still, Briganti and other Fox News P.R. reps have spent a lot of time over the years both defending and promoting the three hosts, as many media reporters can attest.

In the exchange, the hosts also bash Wallace and Leland Vittert. Both have since left the network.

“My anger at the news channel is pronounced,” Ingraham wrote, followed by an “LOL.”

Carlson responded, “It should be. We devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland f—ing Vittert wreck it. Too much.”

“Too much is correct,” Hannity wrote. “I am disgusted at this point.”

Ingraham wrote later in the exchange, “I think the three of us have enormous power. We have more power than we know or exercise….Together.”

Dominion is suing the network for $1.6 billion, claiming that Fox News personalities and guests amplified claims that the voting systems company rigged the 2020 election. In previous filings, Dominion has presented emails and texts in which Fox News anchors cast doubt and disbelief over Donald Trump’s election fraud claims as well as those made by Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, and Sidney Powell, who represented the campaign before she was let loose. Both were guests on Fox shows in the aftermath of the election.

Fox Corp. and Fox News also released its own batch of documents on Tuesday. They claimed that in its filings, Dominion has “been caught red handed using more distortions and misinformation in their PR campaign to smear Fox News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press. We already know they will say and do anything to try to win this case, but to twist and even misattribute quotes to the highest levels of our company is truly beyond the pale.”  

As an example. they pointed to a reference that Dominion made to Murdoch’s deposition. Many news outlets interpreted the reference to mean that Murdoch, in answering questions about MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s ads, said, “It is not red or blue, it is green.” In fact, Dominion’s attorney said that quote, and asked Murdoch if it was right. “Correct,” Murdoch said.

In a passing reference in its latest filing, Dominion’s attorneys wrote that “during Trump’s campaign, Rupert provided Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy.”

Two groups, Media Matters for America and End Citizens United, have since filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission, calling for an investigation as to whether Murdoch’s support constituted an illegal corporate campaign contribution. But Fox Corp. said that Murdoch did forward a link to a Biden campaign advertisement that already made public.

Murdoch “also flatly denied sharing any information about the Biden campaign’s debate preparations or strategy. He simply suggested to Mr. Kushner that Mr. Trump avoid looking like a bully in the next debate which was a common refrain by many at the time,” including in editorials and op eds.

“The information that Mr. Murdoch shared with Mr. Kushner was not ‘material non-public information’ about the Biden campaign,” the company said. “The sharing of public information cannot yield a coordinated communication or an in-kind contribution.”

In the excerpts Fox released of depositions of with Fox Corp executives, figures ranging from Murdoch to board member Paul Ryan to CEO Lachlan Murdoch give the impression that they have little say in what goes on the network.

Still, there are moments where Murdoch is crystal clear over some of the exchanges with Fox News leadership. In an exchange in his January 19, 2023 deposition, Murdoch is rather disarmingly straightforward with a Dominion attorney over an email he sent to Scott on November 6, 2020: 

Q: And you are suggesting that Fox should call Pennsylvania for Biden; correct?   

A: Yes. Whenever – I thought whenever Pennsylvania is out of doubt, it is over.  

Q: I’m sorry. I didn’t hear that.  

A: I thought that once it is declared for Biden – that Pennsylvania is declared for Biden, the election is over. All doubt. 

Q: All doubt, There is nothing more to talk about?  

A: Right 

Among the other highlights:

More to come.

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