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Davida Brook, left, Justin Nelson, center, and Stephen Shackelford, right, attorneys for Dominion Voting Systems, exit the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington, Del., on April 18.Julio Cortez/The Associated Press

Dominion Voting Systems’ large settlement in its high-profile defamation lawsuit against Fox News is an important win – for Dominion and for democracy. And for anyone who believes you cannot just go on TV night after night and amplify a lie you do not believe, but that you do believe will be good for ratings.

“The mountains of evidence we discovered in the course of this litigation revealed that leaders and high-profile figures at Fox knew they were lying about Dominion,” its CEO John Poulos wrote last week in The Globe and Mail.

One of those high-profile figures was Tucker Carlson, the network’s biggest star, who is now gone from Fox. In private messages revealed through the lawsuit’s discovery process, Mr. Carlson’s tone contradicted his on-air stand on the fabricated controversy.

Dominion, a born-in-Canada company, became a household name in 2020 as a result of a bizarre conspiracy theory that blamed Donald Trump’s election defeat on voting machines rigged in favour of the Democrats. Much of Mr. Trump’s base believed it. Some believed it with such fervour that they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Dominion sued because of “outrageous and harmful lies about my company in pursuit of ratings and profits,” Mr. Poulos wrote. His company’s customers, employees and their families were subjected to vitriol that included death threats. The harassment came from “people who believed the media outlets that they trusted to tell the truth – but which were actually pushing things they knew to be false.”

Dominion sued for US$1.6-billion. The 11th hour settlement will see Fox pay out US$787.5-million.

Believers in fairness might cheer at the thought of Mr. Carlson’s downfall and that huge withdrawal from Fox’s bank account, but it is a hollow triumph that does not resolve the massive problem it perpetuated. As the U.S. hurtles toward the 2024 presidential election, the fake-news horse is out of the barn and Fox is not required to do much to rectify that.

The settlement did not require Fox to apologize. Mr. Poulos says he decided against including an apology in the deal because he didn’t believe it would be genuine.

Instead, Fox issued a written statement. It had the nerve to say: “This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”

The settlement spared Fox from putting Fox Corp. chair Rupert Murdoch on the stand, along with Mr. Carlson and other Fox stars such as Sean Hannity (who is still employed as of this writing).

But it has also spared Trump loyalists from having to confront the truth.

Checking the Fox News website Monday morning before Mr. Carlson’s termination was announced, the top promoted story was a frame-by-frame breakdown of new UFO video footage released by the Pentagon (reminiscent of supermarket tabloids from days of old). I had to search “Dominion” to find any reference to the settlement. When I found it, the most recent story was headlined: “Fox, Dominion settle lawsuit, disappointing mainstream media.”

That was Fox’s take: mainstream media was disappointed they couldn’t enjoy the spectacle of a prolonged trial, rather than saying Fox News lied, causing severe consequences. Where do you think those Jan. 6 insurgents were getting their news? Not the “lying New York Times,” as Mr. Trump has referred to that newspaper.

It’s not Mr. Poulos’s job to educate the public, but I fear this settlement will fail to convince the Fox army of the broadcaster’s misdeeds. The indoctrinated will continue to get their news from Fox – or perhaps even less credible outlets, as some viewers threaten to tune out with Mr. Carlson gone.

Journalists make mistakes. And when we do, it eats us up inside. A typo or slightly wrong date can cause sleepless nights. That is in no way akin to knowingly promoting a lie, as Fox did. With huge consequences. There are still millions of Americans who think the election was stolen, the New Yorker said last week.

“Does anyone care about the truth any more?” Mr. Poulos asked. I think a lot of people who do care about the truth have put their faith in an organization that doesn’t. I don’t know how people who knowingly lie to audiences who trust and believe in them sleep at night. And I don’t know what’s next. Because so much damage has been done.

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