Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems reached a $787.5 million settlement Tuesday just as the highly-anticipated defamation trial had begun and a 12-person jury had already been selected.
Rumors of settlement talks had been brewing after Judge Eric Davis delayed jury selection.
Following the settlement announcement, Davis thanked the jury and commended attorneys from both parties, saying the briefings he heard were among the best he had experienced in his career, adding that he would be “very proud” to serve as their judge in a future case.
Analysts described the defamation lawsuit as the biggest media trial in decades, with many predicting the ruling would have a lasting and tangible precedent on First Amendment rights and the responsibilities of newsrooms.
Dominion had been seeking $1.6 billion in damages.
After the settlement, Fox News said it acknowledged the court’s rulings that found “certain claims about Dominion to be false.”
“This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards,” the network said in a statement. “We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
In a statement, Dominion CEO John Poulos called it a “historic settlement,” saying that “Fox has admitted to telling lies” to reach it. He said that those lies “caused enormous damage to my Company, our employees, and our customers.”
At a press conference outside the courthouse, Dominion’s legal team did not address questions about whether part of the settlement included a retraction or an on-air apology from Fox News.
Dominion’s head lawyer Justin Nelson told reporters, ”Money is accountability.”
“The truth matters: lies have consequences,” Nelson said. “The truth does not know red or blue. People across the political spectrum can and should disagree on issues, even of the most profound importance. But for our democracy to endure for another 250 years...we must share a commitment to facts.”
Dominion had asked a Delaware jury to award damages because it claims Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson knowingly or recklessly disregarded the truth when they promoted outlandish lies about its voting equipment on air.
The hosts were accused of echoing conspiracy theories and featuring several guests who told viewers that Dominion was part of an orchestrated effort to steal the election from former President Donald Trump. These claims have been proven false in court.
Leading up to the trial, Dominion secured several internal communications that showed Fox executives, producers, and hosts knew the claims about Dominion were false but chose to air them anyway.
Fox has argued that they are protected under the First Amendment, and have said that a ruling against them will chill freedom of the press in the country.
Fox News faces a separate lawsuit from Smartmatic, another electronic voting company.
“Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign. Smartmatic will expose the rest,” Smartmatic lawyer Erik Connolly told Semafor. He added that the company “remains committed to clearing its name, recouping the significant damage done to the company, and holding Fox accountable for undermining democracy.”