Some of the news reports on the Fox News/Dominion “settlement” border on the absurd. The “settlement” between the two contending parties settles little, for obvious reasons. It certainly does not settle the chief claim both parties brought before the court: Did or did not Fox defame Dominion?
A jury trial, or a trial before a judge, might have clarified important issues in the case. Defamation suits are hard to prove in American courts, largely owing to the First Amendment, which gives political broadcasters in particular a wide birth of freedom. Defamation in Great Britain is, by comparison, far less constricted. In U.S. courts, those claiming defamation must show that plaintiffs had knowingly lied -- to lie is knowingly to say the thing that is not -- and the lie must be rooted in malice.
This writer’s problem with the Fox News/Dominion so called settlement begins with the word “settle.” If the claims before the court were not settled by the settlement – and they were not – the question arises, what was settled?
The Fox/Dominion monetary settlement is nothing more than an agreement NOT to settle issues before the court. Fox has agreed to pay Dominion more than $787 million, and Dominion has agreed to accept the payment in return for not pressing the legal issue before the court which, following an anticipated and costly string of appeals, might definitively be settled at some distant point in the future by a Supreme Court finding, usually the last stop on the way to a judicial train wreck.
Plea bargaining and the inconclusive resolutions of claims of this sort are all too common in American jurisprudence. The deal making is usually preceded by charges inflated by prosecutors that are “reduced” upon an agreement for a sometimes inconclusive admission of wrongdoing. Prisoners are carted off to jail convinced of their innocence. Their victims shake their heads in disbelief that justice has been denied them. Lawyers and prosecutors then have lunch over the case, certain that justice has been done. And, if the case is even remotely political, reporters and columnists find themselves in business for the next few issues of their costly papers. Lady Justice, whose eyes are wrapped in a settlement sleep mask, rests in peace until the next political/judicial kerfuffle.
To put it briefly, the Fox News/Dominion settlement is a settlement that settles none of the issues that brought the two parties to court. And that is why talking heads will be talking about the settlement for the next week or two, until some other consideration of great moment pushes the issue out of public notice.
Within days of the settlement that settled nothing, Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” was let go by Fox. Are the two incidents connected? No one knows. And if tomorrow Fox CEO Lachlan Murdock – not at all a chip off his old man’s block – were to swear on a stack of Bibles that the two were connected, few would believe him. Is Carlson inescapably wedded to Trump, the yellow monster? The anti-MAGA folk on the left think so, but then the left in the United States lives half its life in a fantasy that would have astonished the Brothers Grimm and the other half in a utopian political Eden in which men, cosmetically changed, are women and the world administered by an invisible and unaccountable President Biden is a wonder of efficiency, non-partisan brotherhood and forward looking progress.
The 80-year-old Biden has now thrown his hat in the presidential ring. ABC News reported following the announcement, “Nearly six in 10 Democratic-aligned adults said they didn't want to see Biden renominated, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found in February. And seven in 10 Americans, and 51% of Democrats, said in the NBC News poll this month that they did not want him to seek a second term, with half of them citing age as a ‘major’ factor.”
Shortly after Biden announced he was running again as President, Democrat political troops fell into line. Governor Ned Lamont was fulsome in his praise of Biden: “I think when you’re president you have a record, you have a record of accomplishment. I know it’s all about the future and let’s talk about where we’re going to be, [but] this is a guy who’s delivered the goods and gotten the job done.”
Among the goods delivered by Biden was Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan to -- China. And, some critics claim, he also had facilitated the delivery of fentanyl, the chemical components of which are “made in China,” across a “Made in Washington D.C.” porous southern U.S.-Mexico border teeming with illegal aliens.
But the election is still more than a half year in the future -- plenty of time to boost the figures cited by ABC News, but not if Biden chooses to flee from his record in office by secluding himself in his White House bunker, allowing intermediaries like the eupeptic Lamont to answer for a press shy president.
Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entries in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.