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Fox News studios in New York in 2018.Mark Lennihan

Fox News repeatedly broadcast lies about vote-rigging claims that it knew were “total bs,” Dominion Voting Systems said in a filing made public on Thursday, as part of the election technology company’s US$1.6-billion defamation lawsuit.

The media giant countered that the suit was an assault on a free press and that Dominion could not prove its claims.

“From the top down, Fox knew ‘the dominion stuff’ was ‘total bs,’” Dominion wrote, citing a sealed exhibit. “Yet despite knowing the truth – or at minimum, recklessly disregarding that truth – Fox spread and endorsed these ‘outlandish voter fraud claims’ about Dominion even as it internally recognized the lies as ‘crazy,’ ‘absurd,’ and ‘shockingly reckless.’”

The filing seeks summary judgment, a court ruling in its favour without the need for a trial.

Dominion sued Fox News Networks in March, 2021, in Delaware state court, alleging the cable TV network amplified false claims that Dominion voting machines were used to rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election against Republican Donald Trump and in favour of his Democratic rival Joe Biden, who won the election.

Fox defended its coverage in its own summary judgment motion unsealed on Thursday, arguing it had a right to report on election-fraud allegations made by Mr. Trump and his lawyers and saying Dominion’s lawsuit would stifle freedom of the press.

“There will be a lot of noise and confusion generated by Dominion … but the core of this case remains about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which are fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution and protected by New York Times v. Sullivan,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement.

A five-week trial is scheduled to begin on April 17.

Dominion’s filing is replete with references to e-mails and statements in which Fox Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and other top Fox executives say the claims made about Dominion on-air were false.

The filing reflects the outcome of months of discovery from both sides. Dominion in January questioned Mr. Murdoch under oath, the most high-profile figure to face questioning in the case.

Dominion must prove that the network either knew the statements it aired were false or recklessly disregarded their accuracy.

Dominion said in its brief that Mr. Murdoch internally described the election claims as “really crazy” and “damaging” but declined to wield his editorial power to stop them.

For example, according to Dominion’s filing, when Mr. Murdoch watched Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell make unfounded claims about Dominion about two weeks after the election, he told Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott: “Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear.”

Other top Fox executives including Ms. Scott repeatedly raised the alarm over false election fraud claims but failed to act because they feared losing viewers to far-right competitor Newsmax, Dominion said.

The underlying exhibits for many of those statements remain under seal. Fox has said Dominion took them out of context.

Representatives for Ms. Powell and Mr. Giuliani could not immediately be reached for comment. A Fox Corp spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Murdoch’s behalf.

Fox filed a counterclaim in Delaware Superior Court on Thursday, alleging that Dominion has no evidence to support its “staggering” damages claim. Fox claimed Dominion’s private equity owners are using the suit to seek windfall profits on an asset they purchased at an US$80-million value in 2018.

In its summary judgment filing, Fox argued that Mr. Trump’s claims about the election were “undeniably newsworthy” and that viewers understood they were merely being reported as allegations.

Fox also argued that Dominion’s suit advances overly broad interpretations of defamation law, takes quotes from its coverage out of context and ignores its reporting of Dominion’s rebuttals to the false claims.

“Dominion’s lawsuit is an assault on the First Amendment and the free press,” Fox wrote in its filing. “The record shows that Dominion’s central allegations are factually unfounded, legally unsound, or both.”

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