Following Tuesday’s stunning last-minute decision by Fox News to wave the white flag and settle with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million rather than go through a grueling six-week defamation trial, much of the focus has centered on how this will impact the conservative cable giant going forward.
While Dominion is now in the rearview mirror for Fox, the voting machine firm still has pending lawsuits against fringe-right cable networks Newsmax and One America News, as well as Trump acolytes Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Mike Lindell, and Patrick Byrne.
Smartmatic, another voting software company implicated in MAGA conspiracies of stealing the 2020 election from Donald Trump, also has an upcoming $2.7-billion suit against Fox and other individuals which has been waved through for trial. And just like Dominion, Smartmatic is suing OAN and Newsmax over their election lies.
Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, currently has the financial strength to absorb the impact of the massive check it will cut to Dominion. The media conglomerate has a market cap of $17.3 billion and an enterprise valuation of $20.6 billion. Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch recently claimed that the company has $4.1 billion on-hand.
Of course, Smartmatic is seeking nearly twice as much as Dominion did, and legal experts feel their defamation case over Fox’s 2020 election coverage is at least as strong as Dominion’s. Fox is also staring down a lawsuit from former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg, who claims network attorneys coerced her into giving false testimony in the Dominion case. Additionally, the Murdochs and other Fox directors are looking at legal action from Fox shareholders who feel the executives damaged the company by allowing Trump’s election conspiracies to fester on Fox airwaves.
Still, Fox’s resources provide them the opportunity to negotiate huge settlements in these cases and attempt to sweep away the issue without any public apologies or overt admissions of guilt, all while operating as business as usual.
Newsmax and OAN, however, almost certainly do not have that same luxury.
“There is still the possibility of corporate bankruptcy, which could be a reorganization,” University of Tennessee journalism professor Stuart Brotman told The Daily Beast, referencing the tactic used by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after losing a massive defamation case.
Both channels are much smaller than Fox News and don’t enjoy the large corporate backing of the conservative cable giant. Neither company is publicly traded, so it is difficult to assess their valuations.
Conservative businessman Robert Herring, who launched OAN in 2013, pegged the network’s value in 2019 at $250 million. However, that was almost entirely due to the channel’s deal with DirecTV at the time, as an accountant swore under oath at the time that OAN’s value “would be zero” without the AT&T-backed satellite carrier. DirecTV dropped OAN last year, followed by other cable providers.
Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, meanwhile, claimed his channel was worth more than $200 million in late 2020. This was just as the pro-Trump network was experiencing exponential audience growth thanks to its full-throated embrace of election denialism—a tactic it used to poach MAGA viewers angry with Fox News over its Arizona call. (The channel’s ratings have fallen substantially since early 2021.)
Just like with Fox News, Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion from both OAN and Newsmax. And while much of Dominion’s argument against Fox focused on the network’s behind-the-scenes freakout over their viewers fleeing for Newsmax and OAN after the 2020 election, the legal strategy is probably much more straightforward against the two smaller far-right channels.
Essentially, the voting-systems company is arguing that both Newsmax and OAN overtly tried to boost their ratings and directly appeal to disgruntled MAGA fans angry by helping to “create and cultivate an alternate reality where… Dominion engaged in a colossal fraud.”
Smartmatic has yet to specify exact figures in its complaints against Newsmax and OAN, but filed separate suits against both companies in November 2021. And judges in both cases ruled that the networks were ordered to face the voting technology company’s defamation litigation in court. In a somewhat ironic twist, the Delaware Superior Court judge who just oversaw Dominion’s case against Fox News is presiding over both the Smartmatic and Dominion lawsuits against Newsmax.
Brotman told The Daily Beast that when it comes to potential settlement offers from OAN and Newsmax to the voting software firms, much of that will revolve around how much their insurance companies are willing to dish out.
“My assumption is that both of those networks are carrying some insurance,” he noted. “And I would assume that the insurance companies are going to be involved in that litigation and the set of potential settlements. So if they had a certain limit on the insurance, the insurance essentially would say we will pay that limit.”
As for whether either network decided to take their chances at trial, or Smartmatic and Dominion decided against accepting a settlement, Brotman pointed out that the cable channels could potentially take the route Alex Jones took after losing his recent defamation cases.
“Then the other issue—if it went to verdict—is whether we’d go through an appellate process, and even at the trial level, whether or not the damage award would be reduced,” Brotman explained. “We don’t know what the damage award is so we don’t know whether there would be a reduction. And of course, there is still the possibility of corporate bankruptcy, which could be a reorganization.”
Furthermore, based on Dominion’s acceptance of a settlement from Fox—one which didn’t include a public apology or on-air retraction from the network’s personalities—Brotman said the company appears to be “satisfied with the money,” and future actions will focus on trying to “maximize the potential settlement amounts.”
Ponying up for back-breaking settlements, losing the verdicts in court, or being forced to go into bankruptcy aren’t the only financial woes OAN and Newsmax face over these lawsuits—both of which likely won’t make it to trial until next year.
“I think the legal expenses are going to be formidable for everybody here,” Brotman pointed out.
Following the Fox News settlement, Newsmax released a statement expressing confidence over their pending case with Dominion.
“Newsmax believes that the facts at issue in Dominion’s case against us are materially different from those that may have driven Fox to settle and no conclusion about Newsmax should be drawn from that settlement,” the network said. “Newsmax stands by its coverage and analysis of the 2020 election and will continue to vigorously defend against the claim.”
OAN has yet to publicly comment on the settlement, and did not respond to a request for comment.