When Fox News and Dominion Voting Services reached a whopping $787.5 million settlement out of court yesterday, the last-minute agreement spoiled hopes that further light would be shed on the network’s decisions to broadcast conspiracy theories during and after the 2020 election. 

As The Washington Post noted, 

Dominion had to prove not only that the claims weren’t true — which it did — but that Fox’s actions met the legal standard of “actual malice, meaning that it knew better or that it showed a reckless disregard for the truth.

The settlement, the full terms of which weren’t immediately clear and could remain shrouded, will spare Fox a lengthy spectacle delving into those issues.

The settlement fell short of the $1.6 billion originally sought by Dominion, but is a victory for the private equity firm that owns three-quarters of it, Staple Street Capital. In the wake of the settlement, reports Insider, Staple Street “is set to bag a whopping 1,442% return” on its investment. 

It is also a win for Dominion’s lead attorney, Justin Nelson, a politically ambitious former University of Texas law professor who was nearly elected Texas attorney general in 2018. Instead, Nelson, who is a Democrat, issued Dominion’s triumphant post-settlement statement, saying, “The truth matters. Lies have consequences. Over two years ago, a torrent of lies swept Dominion election officials across America into an alternative universe of conspiracy theories causing grievous harm to Dominion and the country.”

Even if the lawsuit had been allowed to go the distance in court — and even if the settlement should be seen as a partial victory of truth over lies — American democracy was never going to be saved by the litigation of a private equity fund with $900 million in assets. 

As Peter Maass observed yesterday in The Intercept:

The settlement is unlikely to be welcomed by Fox critics who believed that a guilty verdict would serve a mortal blow to the network’s reputation. The idea was that Fox, on the ropes, should not be allowed to slip away by writing a settlement check and mumbling an insincere apology. As a headline from The New Republic pleaded amid the settlement rumors a few days ago, “Don’t Settle, Dominion! Drag Fox News Across the Coals.” It argued that with a guilty verdict, “we will be able to say, with a certainty we can’t quite claim now, that Fox News lies.”

But Dominion does not exist to serve the public interest or liberal magazines. It is a for-profit company owned by Staple Street Capital, a small private equity firm. Staple Street has fewer than 50 employees and claims $900 million of assets under management (a modest amount in its industry). It was founded in 2009 by Hootan Yaghoobzadeh and Stephen D. Owens, who previously worked at Carlyle Group and Cerberus Capital Management, giants in private equity. Yaghoobzadeh and Owens graduated from Harvard Business School and have no records of political donations or political activity; they are business people, not pro-democracy agitators.

Read the full article at The Intercept here

Your support matters…

Independent journalism is under threat and overshadowed by heavily funded mainstream media.

You can help level the playing field. Become a member.

Your tax-deductible contribution keeps us digging beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that unearths what's really happening- without compromise.

Give today to support our courageous, independent journalists.