Fox Corp. announced on Friday that its chief legal and policy officer, Viet Dinh, will leave the company at the end of the year. Dinh, who joined Fox in 2018, oversaw the company’s legal strategy and corporate affairs. He will remain a special adviser to Fox Corp., according to a statement from the media giant.
Dinh’s departure comes four months after Fox Corp. agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, a voting machine manufacturer that was falsely accused of rigging the 2020 presidential election by some Fox News hosts and guests. The settlement, which was reached on the same day the trial was scheduled to start, was one of the largest in media history and avoided a potentially damaging public airing of Fox’s internal communications and decision-making.
Dinh, who previously served as an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush, did not give a reason for his exit. He said in a statement that he was “grateful” for the opportunity to work at Fox and praised its “exceptional leadership team.” He also said he looked forward to continuing his “close relationship” with Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch and CEO Lachlan Murdoch.
Fox faced backlash for spreading election lies
Fox News, a unit of Fox Corp., was one of the main outlets that amplified former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him by widespread fraud. Some of its hosts, such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Jeanine Pirro, as well as guests like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, repeatedly cast doubt on the integrity of the election and promoted conspiracy theories involving Dominion and other voting technology companies.
Dominion sued Fox News in March for $1.6 billion, alleging that the network “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.” The lawsuit claimed that Fox knew its statements about Dominion were false and defamatory, but aired them anyway to boost its ratings and appease its pro-Trump audience.
Documents released during the pretrial discovery process revealed that some Fox executives and staffers were aware of the falsity of the election fraud claims and expressed concerns about them internally. For example, one Fox vice president called Powell’s allegations “MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS” in an email. Another Fox executive warned that airing Giuliani’s claims could expose the network to legal liability.
Rupert Murdoch also acknowledged in a deposition that some Fox News hosts endorsed false claims about the election, but said he believed the network had corrected them. He said he trusted his son Lachlan to handle the matter and did not intervene personally.
Fox faces other legal challenges
The settlement with Dominion was not the only legal headache for Fox this year. The network also faced lawsuits from Smartmatic, another voting technology company that was falsely accused of being involved in election fraud; Eric Coomer, a Dominion employee who received death threats after being falsely accused of manipulating votes; and two voting machine workers in Georgia who were harassed and threatened after being falsely accused of tampering with ballots.
Fox has moved to dismiss some of these lawsuits, arguing that it was exercising its First Amendment rights to report on matters of public interest and that it cannot be held liable for statements made by its guests or opinion hosts. The network has also said that it stands by its journalism and that it presented both sides of the story.
However, some legal experts have said that Fox may have a hard time defending itself against these lawsuits, given the evidence that it knew or should have known that its statements about the election were false or misleading. They have also said that Fox may face more lawsuits from other parties who were harmed by its coverage of the election.