Rupert Murdoch himself demanded the firing of Fox political analyst Chris Stirewalt, who had delivered part of the news of Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat, as Fox scrambled mollify Trump and his supporters.
Now Stirewalt wants to know: Who will Fox fire as a result of the company’s $787 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems.
“The part that I’m interested in seeing is: What does the apology sound like? Who gets fired? What are the consequences inside the company?” the former Fox News political director said in an interview with Semafor after the settlement. “Fox was looking to reset after the 2020 election. This sort of froze their approach in place,” he said. “Now that this is resolved, obviously, they have to think about the next lawsuit in the pipeline with Smartmatic. It will be interesting to see what new approach they take.”
Stirewalt was one of two senior political editors who were forced out of Fox after the network was the first to project that Joe Biden had defeated Donald Trump in Arizona, a call that enraged many of the network’s Trump supporting viewers and personalities. The projection angered many important figures at Fox, including Fox Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, who privately suggested to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott that the duo be fired to send a message of loyalty to Trump allies.
The former Fox News political director’s testimony in the Dominion case was key to the company’s argument that Fox News hosts and personalities broadly knew that claims being made on the Fox News air were dubious, but allowed guests such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell to continue to make appearances on Fox programs anyway.
Stirewalt said he was not surprised that Fox News settled the case, citing the unpredictability and discomfort of putting figures like Murdoch or host Maria Bartiromo on the stand.
“The enjoyment that Fox’s many detractors took in watching the squirming — the discovery came out, and all of those things — was inevitably going to be disappointing,” said Stirewalt, now a political editor and contributor with NewsNation and the Dispatch. “This is a specific kind of lawsuit. This is not an episode of Matlock or like Scooby Doo where at the end they’re gonna pull the mask off and it’s Rupert Murdoch. And he’s gonna say, ‘You got me.’”
The editor would not say whether he’ll be deposed in a similar lawsuit from voting company Smartmatic, which is also suing Fox over false claims made about its voting systems in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. But he said that he was increasingly tired of reliving the saga, which saw him face criticism from colleagues and Fox News audiences.
“I am sick to death of this story. For me, as a journalist, being part of the story is not where I want to be. I want to cover the story. I want to analyze the story. I want to talk about politics and I want to do that stuff,” he said. “I guess I put it this way: I’ve been given the opportunity to relive a very difficult three month period in my life over and over for three years. In front of Congress, depositions, on and on. I will be pleased when that is over.”
Room for Disagreement
$787 million is one of the largest media settlements in American history. But the money and the embarrassment of the discovery documents could be the only real repercussions Fox faces from the trial.
CNN reported that Fox News would not have to apologize on air for its coverage of the 2020 election and Dominion’s voting machines. And the settlement number barely moved the parent company’s stock price on Tuesday, suggesting that investors were not shocked by the payout number.
Fox may also have substantial insurance coverage, but those details remain secret.
During the Semafor Media Summit, Barry Diller, who founded the Fox TV network with Murdoch, said he didn’t think the Dominion lawsuit would have a real impact on the Fox News founder.
“So what? They’ll pay it,” the billionaire Hollywood and tech executive told Semafor editor-in-chief Ben Smith at the Semafor Media Summit on Monday. “What is it going to do? Is it going to worsen Rupert Murdoch’s reputation? I mean, good luck to you.”
- There could still be revelations from Fox News’ legal troubles over its coverage of the 2020 election. This week Smartmatic subpoenaed Ex-Fox News producer Abby Grossberg as part of its lawsuit against Fox, asking her to produce records of communication about claims aired on Fox about the election.
- Some mainstream data journalists and polling analysts have said that although Biden did win Arizona, Fox’s call was still premature.