Fox’s Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan are among the witnesses that voting-machine maker Dominion is seeking to call in a landmark defamation trial next month over the network’s airing of claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.
Lawyers for the company have listed more than 50 witnesses that they intend to question live during the six-week trial in Delaware, including the Murdochs, Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott and Fox primetime stars Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
The 92-year-old media baron has already been deposed for hours as part of the litigation brought by Dominion, which is seeking $1.6bn in damages over claims from some Trump allies that its machines were rigged to secure Joe Biden’s election victory.
In a hearing on Tuesday, Judge Eric Davis, who is overseeing the case, challenged arguments from Fox’s lawyers who opposed Rupert Murdoch’s appearance. The judge said he had read that the mogul was getting married for a fifth time, and this suggested he was “hardly infirm”.
Davis noted Murdoch is reported to be splitting his time between homes in Los Angeles, Montana, New York and London, and thus “doesn’t sound like someone who can’t travel from New York to Wilmington”. The judge will not rule on whether he will compel individuals to testify until at least next week.
A ruling is also expected within days on both sides’ attempt to avoid a trial and have the case decided by the judge.
In a separate filing to the court, Fox News presented a shorter witness list including hosts Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs.
Rupert Murdoch had indicated in his deposition that both anchors had to some extent “endorsed” such allegations of election fraud, and said Fox “did more than simply host” guests such as Trump’s lawyer Sidney Powell, a major proponent of false claims that Dominion machines were rigged, but rather gave them a “platform”.
In a hearing last week, Dominion’s lawyers referred to a previously sealed exhibit that they claimed contained a text message exchange between Bartiromo and a friend. The friend wrote “my call is at least 20 million fraudulent Biden votes”, Dominion’s counsel said, to which Bartiromo allegedly replied: “Okay, Sidney will say it tomorrow.”
Bartiromo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dominion’s lawyers also said they intended to call a producer for Bartiromo, Abby Grossberg, who recently sued Fox News, alleging that the company’s lawyers did not properly prepare her for her deposition and that she was subject to gender discrimination. Grossberg was subsequently fired by Fox, which said she had shared privileged information and denied her allegations.
In a statement, Fox News said: “Dominion’s needlessly expansive live witness list is yet another attempt to generate headlines and distract from the many shortcomings of its case.”
“Ultimately, this case is about the First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news,” it added.
The trial, which is scheduled to begin on April 17, comes after recent setbacks to Murdoch’s dealmaking ambitions. In January, he scrapped a plan to recombine Fox and News Corp, after facing resistance from shareholders. A month later, News Corp’s plan to sell one of its multibillion-dollar real estate assets fell apart.
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