WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — More evidence is piling up that those who spread misinformation about the 2020 presidential election knew it was false.
This comes in the wake of emails, text messages and testimony that became public as part of a defamation suit, seeking $1.6 billion in damages, filed by Dominion Voting Systems, alleging that Fox News knowingly aired false information about its software based on competitive and political pressure.
Dominion filed court papers on Feb. 16 alleging that numerous Fox News personalities knew there was no evidence to support the claims peddled by Trump’s allies but aired them anyway. The same day, a special grand jury in Atlanta concluded there was no evidence of the fraud that Trump alleged cost him Georgia during the 2020 election.
Trump claimed that fraud cost him wins in key swing states that determined the White House — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But, repeatedly, reviews of the vote tallies or Republican-controlled investigations in those states turned up no evidence that had happened.
In Arizona, a months-long, error-riddled review of ballots in the state’s largest county, Maricopa, that was run by election conspiracy theorists ended by finding that President Joe Biden had won by a slightly larger margin than official results showed. The review was not more reliable than the official tally by Republican-run Maricopa County, which has repeatedly said there were no irregularities in the 2020 election there.
Dominion’s lawsuit also alleges that on the 2020 election night, Fox News correctly called Arizona in favor of Biden but later saw its rating tumble, with the network falling from first to third in network rating between election night and Biden’s inauguration.
Dominion’s 176-page lawsuit describes panic inside the network about alienating viewers by not lining up with Trump’s false claims he won the 2020 election.
“Dominion became the connective thread in a prefabricated election fraud story that needed a villain. Fox, the highest-rated cable news channel in America, chose to legitimize, endorse, and broadcast these false claims into millions of American homes,” the voting machine company wrote in the suit.
In its latest filing, Dominion cites texts and emails between prominent Fox personalities who did not believe the allegations or the people closest to Trump who spread them most aggressively, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and attorney Sidney Powell, who made many of the on-air claims at the center of the suit.
The Dominion filing alleges that the network was initially cautious about fraud claims, with its top anchor, Bret Baier, privately stating two days after the 2020 election, “There is NO evidence of election fraud.”
But after Powell and Giuliani began making allegations about fraud that were picked up by conservative competitors, executives and top hosts started worrying about losing viewers to the conservative network Newsmax, which repeatedly aired unrebutted allegations from Trump’s side. Fox started inviting the two Trump allies on their shows and top executives pushed back on news reporters who tried to fact-check the allegations.
“Sidney Powell is lying” about having evidence of election fraud, Tucker Carlson told a producer about the attorney on Nov. 16, 2020, according to an excerpt from an exhibit that remains under seal. Two days later, according to the filing, Carlson told fellow Fox News host Laura Ingraham, “Our viewers are good people and they believe it.”
The next day, the lawsuit notes, Carlson addressed the issue on his show less bluntly: “Maybe Sidney Powell will come forward soon with details on exactly how this happened, and precisely who did it. … We are certainly hopeful that she will.”
When pressed for evidence, Powell allegedly forwarded a memo titled “Election Fraud Info” to Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo, which accuses Dominion of causing voting irregularities in several states, and that its software flipped votes from Trump to Biden.
The source was allegedly tracked back to a bizarre memo forwarded to Fox News from an unnamed author who said she talks with the wind and who laid out claims of election fraud that she called “pretty wackadoodle.”
Fox, in response, filed a counterclaim against Dominion alleging it was trying to chill coverage of the political controversy and that it aired denials of the allegations from Dominion and its representatives.
In a statement to NewsNation, Fox News said: “Dominion has mischaracterized the record, cherry-picked the quotes stripped of key context, and spilled considerable ink on facts that are irrelevant under black-letter principles of defamation law.”
Fox News said specific responses to Dominion’s claims will come next week when a document from the network gets unsealed.
NewsNation reached out to Dominion but has not yet heard back.
The Hill and The Associated Press contributed to this report.