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Sean Hannity has made a damning statement in the Fox News defamation lawsuit

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Fox News’ Sean Hannity may have uncritically advanced unfounded conspiracy theories about widespread fraud perpetrated by voting machine suppliers in the 2020 election — even though he didn’t believe them to be true.

That is the latest disclosure of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corporation, expected to appear in a Delaware court in April.

Dominion sells election technology, including voting machines, which was used in more than two dozen states by 2020. And it claims that after former President Donald Trump’s election loss, Fox aired a series of baseless and defamatory accusations about the company that it knew were untrue. In the process, Dominion says, Fox “destroyed the enterprise value of a company potentially worth more than $1 billion.”

According to Domination Complaint March 2021, Fox advanced the lies that Dominion had “committed election fraud by rigging the 2020 presidential election,” including using its software and algorithms to alter the vote count; that Dominion is owned by a Venezuelan-founded company that has attempted to rig elections in favor of dictator Hugo Chávez; and that Dominion paid officials to adopt its machines in 2020.

“Fox, one of the most powerful media companies in the United States, brought to life a fabricated election fraud storyline that cast a then-little-known voting machine company called Dominion as the villain,” the complaint reads.

One way the company claims Fox has done this is by giving conspiracy theorists unfiltered platforms.

Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor, who is also suing Dominion for libel, popped up on Hannity’s primetime show on November 30, 2020 – a week after she was unceremoniously started up of former President Donald Trump’s legal team challenging the results of the 2020 election. She had also been a guest at Hannity’s radio show earlier that day.

“There was a whole plot going on and a lot of people were involved,” Powell said said on the evening show. She baselessly accused voting machine companies, including Dominion, of using their machines to “destroy large batches of votes that should have been awarded to President Trump” and to “inject and add huge amounts of votes for Mr. Biden.”

Hannity, a longtime Trump ally, did not even balk at those claims concerns grew among Republicans that Powell’s rhetoric had become too extreme. He stopped making those same accusations himself, but didn’t dismiss them either. He early whether the machines had been investigated for the kind of tampering she claimed (Powell said it would soon) and asked why Democrats didn’t investigate any of these “whistleblowing” claims before ending the segment.

Two years later, he was asked about Powell’s theory in a seven-hour lockdown that was reportedly shared at a hearing earlier this week as part of the Dominion trial, “I didn’t believe it for a second,” he said under oath. Powell also backtracked on her 2021 theorizing, with her lawyers stating that “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements [Powell made] were really factual statements.”

Dominion claims that this is a clear defamation case

Dominion now argues that Hannity’s seemingly credulous attitude to the conspiracy theories, and the fact that he didn’t push them back, shows that Fox deliberately misled viewers about Trump’s 2020 election loss, including what was at the time the most watched program on cable news. Fox News has previously aired a segment during several of his shows designed to defend his own hosts and distance himself from guest statements accusing voting machine and software companies of electoral fraud.

Hannity’s statement doesn’t exactly help his network’s case. But Dominion still faces an uphill battle to win what could become the most important First Amendment cases of recent years, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved at some point. The Supreme Court previously ruled that these are lies or inaccuracies have some protection under the First Amendment, which has made it difficult for libel suits against journalists to prevail, but this case will test just how far those protections go.

In addition to Hannity, Dominion has also ousted other Fox anchors — including Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson, as well as Shepard Smith, who has left the network — and high-profile figures in the Fox News empire. That includes members of the Murdoch family, which owns Fox in addition to News Corp., the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.

NPR reported that Dominion lawyers are trying to prove that Lachlan Murdoch, who is in charge of those media properties, allowed or even encouraged Fox News to broadcast lies about fraud in the 2020 election, despite knowing they were false. They also have dropped his fatherRupert Murdoch.

Judge Eric Davis denied Fox’s request to dismiss the lawsuit based on several protections for journalists in the First Amendment law. The network has argued that in its coverage of the 2020 election, it merely reported newsworthy allegations made by prominent actors against public figures as part of an unresolved dispute, which would shield it from libel claims. The network also claimed that its hosts merely expressed opinions that could not be proven true or false and that it had the right to report defamatory statements made at official government meetings.

In the weeks following the election, Carlson also tried to cast doubt on voting machine security, calling the race “manipulatedfor Joe Biden. And Piro complained that “we are all being told to shut up and move on” after claiming that the “irregularities were more than minimal” in the election.

Because of statements like this, including from hosts, Dominion says those defenses shouldn’t apply in this case.

“If this case doesn’t rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, nothing will happen,” it said in its original complaint.

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