Top Dems push Fox News to stop promoting “propaganda” about 2020 election

Washington — The Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are urging top executives at Fox Corp. and Fox News to direct the network’s hosts to stop pushing baseless claims and “grave propaganda” about the 2020 presidential election, warning that continuing to spread these narratives is harmful to the nation.

The letter from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries comes after excerpts of a deposition from Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch were made public Monday as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against the cable news giant by Dominion Voting Systems.

In the unsealed documents, which included excerpts from the deposition, Murdoch acknowledged that Fox News commentators endorsed false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, and he did not intervene to stop them from amplifying the allegations.

“The leadership of your company was aware of the dangers of broadcasting these outlandish claims. By your own account, Donald Trump’s election lies were ‘damaging’ and ‘really crazy stuff.’ Despite that shocking admission, Fox News hosts have continued to peddle election denialism to the American people,” Schumer and Jeffries wrote.

They continued: “This sets a dangerous precedent that ignores basic journalistic fact-checking principles and public accountability.”

The two Democrats said the actions of Fox News hosts are “even more alarming” given that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to give primetime host Tucker Carlson access to a trove of 41,000 hours of Capitol and police surveillance video from the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia told CBS News on Tuesday that Carlson’s staff was allowed to view but not record portions of the footage from the attack, and the Fox team can request copies of clips they may need.

“We demand that you direct Tucker Carlson and other hosts on your network to stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior,” Schumer and Jeffries wrote.

Spreading false information about the 2020 election, they said, “could not only embolden supporters of the Big Lie to engage in further acts of political violence, but also deeply and broadly weakens faith in our democracy and hurts our country in countless other ways.”

“Fox News executives and all other hosts on your network have a clear choice,” Schumer and Jeffries wrote. “You can continue a pattern of lying to your viewers and risking democracy or move beyond this damaging chapter in your company’s history by siding with the truth and reporting the facts.”

The letter was addressed to Murdoch; his son Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corp.; Suzanne Scott, CEO of Fox News Media; and Jay Wallace, president and executive editor of Fox News Media.

Murdoch’s deposition is the latest filing from Dominion that has pulled back the curtain on how Fox responded to Trump’s loss and his unfounded allegations that the 2020 election was rigged against him.

In text messages made public in an earlier document, some of Fox’s top hosts, including Carlson, raised concerns about the claims of voter fraud being spread by Trump’s allies on its airwaves, but were worried about its audience turning away from the network and tuning in to its competitors after Fox said Mr. Biden had won Arizona, a call that angered Trump and his backers.

Delaware-based Dominion Voting Systems, which sells electronic voting hardware and software, was at the center of election lies spread by Trump and his allies, including false accusations that its machines switched votes from Trump to Mr. Biden during the election.

In response to the filings, lawyers for Fox Corp. have accused Dominion of citing a “handful of selective quotes” that don’t have anything to do with the alleged defamatory statements.

“Dominion’s lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims,” Fox News said in a statement about the suit. “Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear FOX for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment.”

Nikole Killion contributed to this report.