By Oliver Darcy and Marshall Cohen, CNN
Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott sounded the alarm inside the company about the financial fallout that the right-wing network would suffer if it continued aggressively fact-checking then-President Donald Trump’s lies after the 2020 election, according to messages that became public Wednesday.
In one instance, Scott emailed Meade Cooper, executive vice president of prime time programming, and expressed frustration after correspondent Eric Shawn appeared on Martha MacCallum’s show and fact-checked Trump and a Sean Hannity guest.
“This has to stop now,” Scott said in a December 2, 2020, message.
“This is bad for business and there is a lack of understanding what is happening in these shows,” Scott added. “The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material. Bad for business.”
A Fox News spokesperson told CNN that Scott was not taking issue with the fact-checking, but said the matter was about “one host calling out another,” seemingly referring to the fact that MacCallum and Shawn fact-checked a guest that appeared on Hannity’s show.
The email to Cooper was revealed as part of Dominion Voting Systems‘ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. Like several documents made public Wednesday, the email had previously been redacted in earlier court filings. The new emails were included in a presentation that Dominion showed at a hearing last week in Wilmington, Delaware. The voting technology company publicly released the full slideshow Wednesday, per a court order. Fox News, which denies any wrongdoing, has accused Dominion of cherry-picking emails to present a self-serving narrative about what the right-wing network did after the 2020 election.
“These documents once again demonstrate Dominion’s continued reliance on cherry-picked quotes without context to generate headlines in order to distract from the facts of this case,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement. “The foundational right to a free press is at stake and we will continue to fiercely advocate for the First Amendment in protecting the role of news organizations to cover the news.”
In another email written by Scott, zinging correspondent Kristin Fisher, who now works at CNN, for her supposed “dismissive tone” in November 2020 after the presidential contest, the Fox News chief disclosed that the company had “lost 25k subs from FOX NATION,” its streaming service.
In earlier court filings, the data about the Fox Nation subscriptions had been redacted.
The messages underscore the panic that gripped Fox News in the wake of the 2020 election when its viewers rebelled against the channel for accurately calling the election for President Joe Biden.
Other newly released emails showed network producers discussing how putting Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell on the air inflated ratings. At the time, Powell, Giuliani and host Lou Dobbs were promoting debunked conspiracy theories that Dominion had rigged the 2020 election by flipping millions of votes.
“Any day with Rudy and Sidney is guaranteed gold!” the Dobbs producer wrote. In another email, another Dobbs producer wrote, “to keep this alive, we really need Rudy or Sidney.”
The full email chains are not publicly available.
‘Pretty much a crime’
Rupert Murdoch, the Fox Corporation chairman, called Donald Trump’s election lies that incited the January 6 attack on the US Capitol “pretty much a crime,” according to an email that became public Wednesday. The email had previously been redacted in earlier court filings.
“Trump insisting on the election being stolen and convincing 25% of Americans was a huge disservice to the country,” he wrote to Scott and cc’d his son, Lachlan, on Jan. 20, 2021. “Pretty much a crime. Inevitable it blew up on Jan 6th.”
“Best we don’t mention his name unless essential and certainly don’t support him,” Murdoch continued. “We have to respect people of principle and if it comes to the Senate don’t take sides.”
A spokesperson for Murdoch declined to comment on the message.
Murdoch also acknowledged in his deposition that he had told Scott to stop Trump’s appearances on the network’s air.
“At some time, I certainly said that,” Murdoch said.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott was zinging Kristin Fisher’s supposedly “dismissive tone” in a 2020 email, not host Dana Perino’s. The exchange Scott was referring to occurred when Fisher was on Perino’s show.
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