Fox News host Howard Kurtz broke his silence on Sunday about the defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against the conservative network.
Dominion filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News in 2021, alleging several network hosts made untrue claims about the 2020 presidential election. Former President Donald Trump‘s allies claimed, without evidence, that Dominion “flipped” votes from Trump to President Joe Biden, delivering him victories in key swing states. Fox News has defended itself against these allegations, saying it had an obligation to cover Trump’s voter fraud claims.
Kurtz, host of Fox News’ Media Buzz, which covers the news industry, had remained silent on the lawsuit as the network reportedly banned him from speaking about it, according to a report from the Associated Press in late February.
After months of silence, Kurtz weighed in about the lawsuit on Media Buzz.
An election worker is seen performing a test on Dominion Voting System equipment on July 28, 2022 in Detroit. Inset, Fox News Howard Kurtz is seen. Kurtz, who hosts the “Media Buzz” program, broke his silence on Sunday about Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News. JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images; Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
Kurtz largely defended Fox News’ handling of the 2020 election claims, accusing critics of “rooting for” Fox News to “be wiped out as a company because they can’t stand the relatively conservative views of a handful of opinion hosts.”
He said on Sunday that the lawsuit represents a “free speech” issue and that Fox News hosts did their due diligence as reporters to include both sides of the issue. He noted that host Maria Bartiromo of Sunday Morning Futures invited Dominion CEO John Poulos to appear on her show, but that he declined her request.
He described the suit as a “major test” for the First Amendment.
“Legally, Dominion must prove Fox acted with malice or reckless disregard for the truth. There was, to be sure, straight reporting by the news division, which also caused some friction,” Kurtz said. “But the fact some people in the chain of command privately dismissed court claims as nuts or outlandish or insane doesn’t necessarily mean that Fox shouldn’t cover or comment on the extremely newsworthy spectacle of a president saying the election was stolen.”
A Dominion Voting Systems spokesperson responded to Kurtz’s remarks in a statement to Newsweek.
“Dominion is a strong believer in the First Amendment and its protections. As long-settled law makes clear, the First Amendment does not shield broadcasters that knowingly or recklessly spread lies,” the spokesperson wrote.
Last month, Kurtz spoke out against Fox disallowing him to cover the lawsuit.
“I believe I should be covering it. It’s a major media story, given my role here at Fox, but the company has decided that as part of the organization being sued, I can’t talk about it or write about,” he said on his program, according to the Associated Press.
Dominion’s lawsuit has created a whirlwind of public relation difficulties for Fox News in recent weeks. In a deposition unsealed last month, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the Fox Corporation, said he wished “in hindsight” that the network had been “stronger in denouncing” Trump’s election fraud claims. Last week, Dominion accused Fox of not admitting the voter fraud allegations were false to its audience, according to NBC News.
Fox News, in a statement released on March 7, wrote, “Dominion has been caught red handed using more distortions and misinformation in their PR campaign to smear Fox News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press.”
As Newsweek has previously reported, in order to win the defamation suit, Dominion would have to prove that Fox showed actual malice in its coverage of the 2020 election. Meanwhile, a five-week trial for the suit is scheduled to begin in Delaware on April 17.
Newsweek reached out to Fox News spokespersons by email for comment.
Update 03/12/2023 8:45 p.m. ET: This story was updated with comment from Dominion Voting Systems.