Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Murdochs can’t avoid testifying at Dominion trial, judge says

Murdochs can’t avoid testifying at Dominion trial, judge says
Rupert Murdoch (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan can’t avoid testifying at trial if they’re subpoenaed by Dominion Voting Systems Inc in the company’s $1.6-billion defamation suit over Fox News’s airing of false claims that it rigged the 2020 presidential election, a judge said.

“If Dominion wants to bring them live, they need to do a trial subpoena and I would not quash it and I would compel them to come,” Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said on Wednesday in a public hearing. “I know it’s difficult, I know they have very large loads and other focuses, but maybe we can work on trying to push the least amount of inconvenience on them as possible.”

Davis said he’d also compel former House Speaker Paul Ryan, now a Fox board member, and Fox Corp chief legal officer Viet Dinh to testify, if they’re subpoenaed.

The trial, scheduled to start April 17 in Wilmington, Delaware, will shed light on why Fox repeatedly allowed guests like Rudy Giuliani and former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell to falsely claim that Dominion conspired with foreign hackers and corrupt Democrats to ensure Joe Biden won, even though many Fox employees knew it was bogus.

Murdoch, the 92-year-old chairman of the network’s parent, wasn’t included on a witness list filed by Fox on Tuesday in state court. Co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch also wasn’t on the list. Dominion has identified both men as key witnesses for trial.

“Demanding witnesses who had nothing to do with the challenged broadcasts is just the latest example of their political crusade in search of a financial windfall,” Fox said in a statement.

Dominion had urged the court to compel the Murdochs to testify, in a letter responding to Fox’s list.

The judge ruled last month that a jury must decide whether Fox’s defamatory broadcasts were made with knowing or reckless disregard for the truth and whether Dominion suffered damages.

Fox Corp has previously said Rupert Murdoch should not have to testify live, arguing that his extensive deposition testimony under oath about Fox’s reporting on the election and his role in news coverage is sufficient to show jurors. Fox argues Murdoch had no direct control over the reporting, overseen by executives at Fox News.

At a March 28 hearing, Davis balked at Fox Corp’s suggestion that it may be too burdensome for Rupert Murdoch to testify live. The judge also said he prefers live testimony and stressed that he has the authority to order executives of Delaware-incorporated companies to take the witness stand.

Even so, Fox didn’t include Murdoch on its list of live witnesses. The list does include current and former Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Bret Baier and Fox News Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Scott, all of whom played central roles in Fox’s coverage of the election. BM/DM

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