Federal complaints allege Fox News made illegal ‘contribution’ to Trump campaign
Court documents show Fox News executives pushing for the network to help Republican Party candidates win elections in multiple cycles.
The parent company of Fox News has been accused of making an illegal campaign contribution to former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in two complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission on March 3.
One complaint was submitted by the progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America, citing recently released internal communications from Fox Corporation in 2020 that showed chairman Rupert Murdoch had passed along to the Trump campaign confidential information about campaign ads by President Joe Biden’s election campaign in advance of their release.
Fox News is currently being sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems, which alleges that Fox aired false claims that Dominion manipulated the results of the 2020 presidential election, even as Fox acknowledged internally that the allegations were false.
In a Feb. 27 filing, citing information it obtained via depositions and internal Fox texts and emails, attorneys for Dominion wrote, “During Trump’s campaign, Rupert [Murdoch] provided Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy.”
In its complaint, Media Matters argues that this disclosure shows that Fox Corporation was not acting within the confines of legally protected press activity.
“Fox Corporation, through Murdoch, appears to have engaged in the exact type of campaign activity to which the Commission has repeatedly affirmed the press exemption does not apply. Therefore, Fox Corporation cannot try to exploit the press exemption to avoid the consequences of making an illegal corporate in-kind contribution.”
End Citizens United PAC filed a similar complaint with the commission against Fox, citing the same disclosure in the Dominion lawsuit.
“Fox Corporation’s blatant action constitutes a corporate contribution, which–because Fox was not acting with a legitimate press function–is a violation of federal law,” the group said in a press release.
Other information disclosed in the lawsuit has shown that Fox leadership discussed helping Republicans to win elections.
In a November 2020 email to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, Murdoch called for the network to assist Republican senatorial candidates in Georgia.
“Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can,” Murdoch wrote.
In Georgia Senate campaigns, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock ultimately defeated incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in a January 2021 runoff election, handing control of the Senate to the Democratic Party.
In another internal message, sent in 2018, Murdoch revealed that Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had asked for the network’s help in preventing controversial West Virginia businessman Don Blankenship from getting the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
“Both Trump and McConnell are appealing for help to beat unelectable former mine owner who served time,” Murdoch wrote. “Anything during day helpful, but Sean [Hannity] and Laura [Ingraham] dumping on him hard might save the day.”
The disclosures in the defamation lawsuit have exposed the inner workings of Fox News. Since its launch in 1996, the network has regularly aired attacks on progressives, Democrats, and other figures associated with the political left, frequently using falsehoods and edited video to do so. Fox has also often worked in close partnership with the Republican Party to advance its agenda and boost major Republican figures, including former Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush.
That partnership has continued under recently elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who gave Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to raw footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Carlson went on to use the footage in reports that falsely depicted the event as peaceful.
Democratic leaders have continued to criticize the network.
Following the disclosures from the lawsuit, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries sent a joint letter on March 1 to Murdoch and other Fox executives calling on the network to tell prime-time host Tucker Carlson and others on the network to stop promoting election falsehoods.
“We ask that you make sure Fox News ceases disseminating the Big Lie and other election conspiracy theories on your network,” they wrote.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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