Will the Fox-Dominion Settlement Affect Its News Coverage? Don’t Count on It.

After the 2020 election, the discuss inside Fox Information was all about “a pivot” — a reorienting of its protection away from former President Donald J. Trump and towards the extra standard Republican politics favored by the community’s founding chairman, Rupert Murdoch.

Mr. Murdoch mentioned then that he wished to make Mr. Trump a “non individual.” And as just lately as January, when he was deposed as a part of Dominion Voting Programs’ defamation lawsuit towards Fox, his emotions hadn’t modified. “I’d nonetheless wish to,” Mr. Murdoch mentioned.

However Fox’s viewers — the engine of its earnings and the biggest in all of cable — might not let him.

Anybody anticipating that Fox’s $787.5 million settlement with Dominion this week would make the community any humbler or gentler is prone to be upset. And there in all probability received’t be a lot of a shift in the best way the community favorably covers Mr. Trump and the problems that resonate together with his followers.

“How are you going to make an argument to your hosts to not do issues that price?” mentioned Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox Information editor and on-air character who was fired by the community in 2021 and was lined as much as be a witness within the Dominion case. “You may’t inform individuals, ‘Do something to get a ranking, however don’t cowl the preferred determine within the Republican Social gathering.’”

After a hiatus from the community that lasted a lot of 2022, Mr. Trump is again on Fox Information. He’s sat for 3 interviews with the community in lower than a month. The newest one, which was taped earlier this month with Mark Levin, will air on Sunday.

Even voter fraud — the problem that resulted in Fox being sued for billions of {dollars} by Dominion and one other voting know-how firm, Smartmatic — hasn’t fully gone away. In Mr. Trump’s current interview with the Fox host Tucker Carlson, he implied that there was good purpose to doubt the legitimacy of President Biden’s victory, saying, “Individuals might say he received an election.”

Mr. Carlson, for his half, has additionally dipped again into election denialism just lately. “Jan. 6, I believe, might be second solely to the 2020 election as the most important rip-off of my lifetime,” he mentioned on the air on March 14. (His personal textual content messages, revealed as a part of Dominion’s go well with, present him discussing together with his producers how there was no proof the outcomes of the 2020 election had been materially affected by fraud.)

Within the speedy time period, Mr. Murdoch appears unlikely to make any main adjustments at any of his Fox properties. Doing so, mentioned three individuals who have labored intently with him, can be seen because the type of acknowledgment of wrongdoing he’s loath to make. The Dominion settlement included no apology — only a glancing reference to a choose’s findings that Fox had broadcast false statements about Dominion machines and their position in a whimsical plot to steal the election from Mr. Trump.

The $787.5 million payout is large — itself an acknowledgment of wrongdoing of types, as one of many largest settlements ever in a defamation case. But it surely didn’t result in the identical diploma of non-public humiliation because the cellphone hacking scandal involving Mr. Murdoch’s British newspapers. Then, in 2011, he needed to seem earlier than Parliament and atone for a way his journalists had illegally hacked the voice mail accounts of distinguished figures. He had a foam pie thrown in his face and admitted throughout his testimony, “That is essentially the most humble day of my life.”

However his signature American information channel is exhibiting few indicators of humility. It devoted two brief segments on Tuesday to information of the Dominion settlement. Its protection then rapidly returned to the identical topics it’s been hammering since Mr. Biden was elected.

Its information studies on the surge of migrants on the southern border are offered beneath the rubric “Biden Border Disaster.” Republican lawmakers’ efforts to cross legal guidelines banning transgender ladies from faculty sports activities groups obtain distinguished consideration — when solely a tiny quantity are literally taking part in, and typically none in any respect in states the place the legal guidelines have been fiercely debated. President Biden is variously portrayed as incoherent, corrupt and weak — particularly concerning his posture towards China. Footage of criminals ransacking shops, assaulting cops and attacking unwitting bystanders play on a loop — usually with perpetrators who’re Black.

Even Mr. Trump’s lies about fraud within the 2020 presidential election have cropped up right here and there. Final week, the right-wing commentator Clay Travis appeared on “Jesse Watters Primetime,” which final 12 months changed a extra straight information program at 7 p.m., and declared that Mr. Biden “solely received by 20,000 votes after they rigged your entire election, after they hid every little thing related to Hunter Biden, with the large tech, with the large media, and with the large Democrat Social gathering collusion that each one labored in his favor.”

Mr. Watters didn’t right or reply to these remarks on the air.

Tales of voter fraud, usually exaggerated and unsubstantiated, have been a part of the community’s D.N.A. effectively earlier than 2020. In 2012, Roger Ailes, who based Fox Information with Mr. Murdoch, despatched a group of journalists to Ohio to analyze still-unproven claims of malfeasance on the polls after former President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney there.

There are, nevertheless, some refined indicators that Fox needs to maneuver previous the Dominion episodes and its embarrassing disclosures of community executives privately belittling the identical fraud claims they allowed on the air. It has just lately began a promotional marketing campaign highlighting its group of worldwide correspondents in 30-second advertisements. “We now have a mission to be on the bottom reporting the large tales,” one says. The tensions between its information division and its prime-time hosts had been uncovered as a part of the Dominion case, with personal messages from late 2020 exhibiting that hosts like Mr. Carlson and Sean Hannity had mocked and complained about reporters within the Fox Washington bureau who would fact-check the previous president’s fraud claims.

And final week, Fox selected to not renew the contract of one of the vital vociferous election deniers on its payroll, Dan Bongino, previously the host of a Saturday night present.

A spokeswoman for Fox Information mentioned in a written assertion that the community had “considerably elevated its funding in journalism during the last a number of years, additional increasing our information gathering dedication each domestically and overseas.” The assertion added, “We’re extremely happy with our group of journalists.”

Mr. Trump undoubtedly stays one of many greatest tales of the second, placing the community’s management able it finds lower than very best. In his deposition, Mr. Murdoch acknowledged referring privately to the previous president as “nuts,” “plain bonkers” and “unable to suppress his egomania.” His private politics are a lot nearer to an institution Republican within the mould of Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican chief whom Mr. Ailes labored for as a media guide many years in the past.

Mr. Trump can nonetheless draw excessive rankings, even when he’s not the singular determine he as soon as was within the Republican Social gathering. His interview with Mr. Carlson, after his indictment in Manhattan on felony expenses, drew an viewers of three.7 million. An interview that Mr. Carlson did a number of weeks earlier than with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida drew 3.1 million.

Ultimately, the numbers often is the decisive issue about what sort of protection Fox provides the previous president, irrespective of Mr. Murdoch’s preferences.

A former Fox govt, John Ellis, summarized the conundrum the community has with its viewers in his publication after Mr. Trump introduced his 2024 marketing campaign — an occasion that Fox Information broadcast stay. “The facility of Fox Information to affect the outcomes of GOP primaries may be decisive,” he wrote.

“Trump in all probability can not win the 2024 nomination if Fox Information is set to defeat him,” Mr. Ellis added. “However with the intention to defeat him, Fox Information should have the permission of its viewers to take action.”

Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting.

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