NEW YORK (AP) — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Bret Baier are among the stars who both Fox News and the voting machine company suing it for defamation have signaled could testify if the case heads to trial next month.
They are among the names submitted this week as potential witnesses by Fox and Dominion Voting Systems, although it doesn't guarantee that they will appear in court. It still isn't certain there will be a trial. Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis is expected to make a summary judgment ruling in favor of either side or to go forward with a trial.
Dominion has accused Fox of airing false allegations that the company was engaged in voter fraud during the 2020 election even though many at the network doubted the claims were true. Fox says it was lawfully reporting on newsworthy developments.
Carlson, Hannity and Baier all worried privately after the election that Fox's early declaration that Democrat Joe Biden had won the key state of Arizona had damaged the network in the eyes of viewers who supported former President Donald Trump, according to documents revealed as part of the case.
Fox submitted the names of 35 potential live witnesses to the court this week, while Dominion offered 54 names. Dominion's list included Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, chief executive officer of Fox Corp. Dominion also has reserved the right to call former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is on the Fox Corp. board of directors.
Fox has suggested testimony that the 92-year-old Rupert Murdoch has already given in a deposition would suffice.
Davis noted in a court hearing Tuesday that Murdoch had recently become engaged and talked about traveling to his different properties across the country.
“That doesn’t sound like someone who can’t go from New York to Wilmington,” said Davis, who has the authority under Delaware law to compel Murdoch, as a director of Fox Corp., to appear in court.
Matthew Carter, an attorney for the Fox defendants, said they have not argued that Murdoch is infirm or unavailable to travel. Rather, Carter said there is no reason to force him to testify live if he already has spoken under oath for seven hours at his deposition.
Colorado-based Dominion also said it wants former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg to testify. Grossberg has filed suit against Fox, alleging that its lawyers had coached her to give misleading testimony when questioned in a deposition in the Dominion case. Fox has denied that and fired Grossberg last Friday.
In a statement, Fox said Dominion's “needlessly expansive” 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.”
Dominion, in reply, said it believes in the First Amendment but it “does not shield broadcasters that knowingly or recklessly spread lies.”
Also Tuesday, the judge granted a joint request from both sides to allow each to have six preemptory challenges in selecting jurors, instead of the usual three. Davis sided with Fox in ruling there would be six alternate jurors. Dominion wanted 12.
Chase reported from Dover, Del.
David Bauder And Randall Chase, The Associated Press