Dominion Suit Against Fox News Focused on Maria Bartiromo

How do you solve a problem like Maria Bartiromo?

Fox News executives may be asking themselves that question as it emerges as a central figure in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit against the conservative news network.

In released court documents and a deposition related to the case, Bartiromo is said to have allowed former President Trump’s false allegations of election fraud in 2020 to air on the network in an effort to prevent outraged viewers from leaving the show. network.

Falsehoods such as the claim that the Denver-based voting machine maker was founded in Venezuela to help Hugo Chavez and that its software manipulated votes in favor of President Biden went unchallenged on the network in the weeks after the election, despite evidence of opposite.

Court testimony shows that in the days before and after the 2020 election, colleagues and executives raised questions about Bartiromo’s online activity and expressed concerns that she was being influenced by right-wing conspiracy theorists.

Bartiromo’s texts, which appeared in court filings released Tuesday, said she was “depressed” about the results of the election won by President Biden and hoped to see fraud exposed that would overturn the result.

“I want to see a massive fraud exposed. He (Trump) will be able to change that. I told my team that we are not allowed to say pre-election. Not in scripts. Not on banners in the air. Until this goes through the courts,” Bartiromo said in a text to disgraced Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who was indicted in July on contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot in US Capitol.

“You are our fighter. Enough with the sad. We need you,” responded Bannon, who then urged Bartiromo to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Charles E. Schumer of New York.

On November 5, 2020, two days after the election, Washington anchor Bret Baier warned Jay Wallace, who oversees news gathering at Fox News, that Bartiromo had promoted false claims about the election.

Gary Schreier, a producer who has worked with Bartiromo since 2012, told his bosses that Bartiromo was influenced by Trump’s most extreme supporters.

“The problem is that she has the ear of the (GOP) conspiracy theorists and they use her for their message sometimes,” Schreier said in a message to Lauren Petterson, who oversees the Fox Business Network.

That same day, Wallace was told that Bartiromo was sharing conspiracy theories about Dominion on the right-wing social media site Parler, to which he replied, “I don’t know why he’s inviting her.”

When Schreier pointed out a tweet by Bartiromo that espoused conspiracy theories about Peterson, she suggested that Bartiromo should be “removed from social media [media] all together.” Schreier agreed, noting that Bartiromo was “say[ing] crazy s—t” online.

In his deposition, Schreier said his comments were made out of concern that Bartiromo was straying too far from economic news and that her coverage of divisive political issues would scare advertisers away from her program.

Dominion claims Fox News acted with malicious disregard for the truth when it presented the allegations against the company, fueling the emotions that led Trump supporters to storm Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.

Fox News argues that its reporting and commentary was protected by the 1st Amendment because allegations made by a sitting president are noteworthy, even if false.

Bartiromo is one of four Fox News and Fox Business Network personalities named in the suit along with Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs, who is no longer with the company. Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted under oath that they all promoted false claims about the 2020 election, which he believed to be fair.

But the difference with Bartiromo is that she identifies as a news anchor, as she said in her deposition.

Hannity, Dobbs and Pirro are considered opinion hosts, and Fox News executives have testified that they are not held to the same journalistic standards as straight news programs.

Schreier said the opinion programs on Fox News have no obligation to correct falsehoods reported on their programs. Another Fox News executive, David Clarke, told the court that Hannity – the network’s longest-serving star – is not a reliable news source.

Bartiromo, 55, arrived at Fox News with an impressive background as a tireless financial reporter who worked for 20 years at CNBC. She was a respected pioneer, being the first woman to report from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. He joined Fox News in 2013 with an annual salary of $5 million.

Bartiromo is on the air for 15 ½ hours a week on Fox Business Network as host of “Mornings with Maria” and has the highest-rated Sunday morning program on Fox News with “Sunday Morning Futures.”

The anchor primarily spoke to CEOs about her business plans, but became more political after moving to Fox News. Her conservative views have become more prominent and she is said to be dear to Murdoch.

Bartiromo did not respond to a request for comment.

Ahead of a hearing Tuesday, Fox News lawyers introduced new emails aimed at proving Bartiromo did not act maliciously because she did not know whether the allegations made by lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani to Fox News were true or false. and that he had doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 elections.

Court documents presented by Fox News included comments made in a December 2020 email by Nicole Beckman, then a partner at Dominion’s public relations firm, Hamilton Place Strategies. Beckman said Bartiromo “has not made statements that appear to have a strong justification for defamation because she is always careful to either quote other people’s words (‘issued version says . . .’) or not specifically mention Dominion. She leaves it up to her guests to make slanderous claims.”

Bartiromo testified that no one in the administration did anything to stop her or force her to correct the record. While Bartiromo spent time on the story, top executives, reporters and even Fox News stars like Tucker Carlson and Dana Perino were privately saying Trump’s claims were false and questioning Powell and Giuliani’s logic.

Carlson — the most popular and outspoken conservative torchbearer on Fox News — was especially eager to move on from Trump, saying in one text, “I hate him with a passion.”

Much of the deposition testimony related to Bartiromo focuses on appearances by Powell and Giuliani. The duo were given a platform in front of a “Sunday Morning Futures” audience of nearly 2 million viewers a week where they reinforced Trump’s false election claims.

Bartiromo herself made inaccuracies, including repeating inaccurate claims that Dominion was owned by the voting software company Smartmatic, which is also suing Fox News and other conservative networks for defamation.

In her deposition, Bartiromo maintained that she still does not know whether the many accusations made against Dominion on her show were true or false.

He said he repeatedly asked Powell and Giuliani when they would provide evidence to support their claims and stopped having it when they came out empty handed.

But several Fox News executives in their testimony agreed with Dominion’s claims that Bartiromo did not challenge any of Powell’s false statements when he appeared on “Sunday Morning Futures.” Bartiromo also admitted that she never presented any evidence to refute Powell’s claims, even though she was given correct information by Dominion and other Fox News reporters.

Abby Grossberg, Bartiromo’s senior booking producer at the time, was asked in court whether she believed “Sunday Morning Futures” had an obligation to correct false information presented by its guests. Her answer was “no,” a surprising admission since Sunday morning political shows are traditionally where viewers expect to see government officials held accountable.

Bartiromo also testified that she did not feel the need to independently investigate her guests’ claims before presenting them.

While correcting guests in real time can be challenging, Dominion argued that Fox News could have edited out misinformation for repeat broadcasts. But the programs were repeated unchanged.

On Tuesday, Fox News lawyers sought to mitigate the evidence against the network and Bartiromo by subpoenaing emails between the anchor and Tony Frato, another Hamilton Place Strategies executive and former George W. Bush administration spokesman.

Fratto, who had a cordial relationship with Bartiromo, sent a message after her interview with Giuliani.

“What Rudy is saying is verifiably false, and the same for Sidney Powell — it’s tinfoil conspiracy stuff,” Frato said. “And I think they need strong pushback with facts. I’m not saying you should ignore the story, but Rudy is literally making things up as he goes along.”

An email response from Bartiromo asked: “Are you saying I shouldn’t cover a sitting president running for president? I should ditch it and go with the rest of the media. . . ?”

“I’m not saying you should ignore history. . .”, Frato said.

Bartiromo offered to have the Dominion CEO on her show and read a lengthy statement from the company on her show on November 20, 2020.

Fratto’s deposition testimony said his effort to get Bartiromo to stop detaining Giuliani and Powell had no impact.

He later wrote to Wallace, hoping to embarrass the network by comparing it to upstart competitor Newsmax.

Court from Fox News said that the fact that some people at the organization rejected Trump’s claims did not mean that those who believed them acted with malice in presenting them.

“It’s not uncommon for some people in a newsroom (with the diverse political views you’d expect) to disbelieve the allegations and hope that they eventually turn out to be false, while others will keep an open mind in the hope that they turn out to be true.”

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