How the Fox settlement keeps a deep-rooted American tradition safe

This piece was originally published in The New York Times.

The settlement in the Fox News-Dominion Voting Systems case represents a staggering financial sum — likely the largest monetary payout ever in a defamation case against a major news outlet. In addition, the judge offered a sharp rebuke of Fox News in pretrial rulings for what he said were the wild, false claims it aired about Dominion and its voting machines after the 2020 election.

By the time the trial was set to begin on Tuesday, the only question remaining about whether Fox was liable was if it had broadcast those claims with “actual malice” — that is, whether it knew the statements were false when it made them, or acted with reckless disregard for their falsity.

Many people are understandably frustrated by the lack of a formal retraction, but critically for our legal system, the settlement underscores that the actual malice standard still works, in spite of recent arguments to weaken it. As illustrated by the Dominion litigation, potentially meritorious suits proceed through discovery to trial, while those that can’t sufficiently make a case for actual malice by the defendants typically get dismissed by a judge.

Read the full piece in The New York Times.

About the Authors

John Langford


John Langford is a counsel who focuses primarily on issues related to the First Amendment, newsgathering, free expression, and disinformation at Protect Democracy.

Rachel Goodman

Counsel & Team Manager, Safeguarding the Public Square

Rachel Goodman leads Protect Democracy’s team working to combat anti-democratic disinformation through litigation and other forms of advocacy.

Rebecca Lullo

Policy Strategist

Rebecca Lullo engages in policy analysis and advocacy focused on promoting healthy civil-military relations and preventing abuses of power by the federal government. She also helps mobilize national security leaders to defend U.S. democracy. 

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