By David Bauder and Nicholas Riccardi | Associated Press
NEW YORK – A defamation lawsuit is uncovering Fox News figures’ behind-the-scenes dismissive views of Donald Trump, including a text message from Tucker Carlson declaring “I hate him passionately.”
Carlson’s private text conversation was revealed in court documents at virtually the same time as the former president saluting the Fox News host on social media. Trump said he was doing a “great job” of presenting excerpts from the US Capitol security video of the January 6, 2021 insurrection – although Carlson used the video to produce a false narrative of the attack.
The documents also come to light at a time of heightened tension between Trump and the mainstream media, which has appealed to conservatives in his campaign to regain the presidency.
Voting machine maker Dominion Voting Systems is suing Fox News for $1.6 billion, alleging the network broadcast false claims that the company was responsible for fraud in the 2020 presidential election. , and a trove of documents relating to Fox’s actions after the election is being publicly released in advance.
A common theme that emerges from internal documents and testimony is that Fox executives and presenters doubted the election claims aired by Trump and his allies, but aired and emphasized them anyway. Fox was increasingly concerned about declining ratings as Trump supporters turned away from the network after it – correctly – called Joe Biden the presidential winner in Arizona on election night.
The exchanges include Carlson’s January 4, 2021, text conversation with an unknown person, in which the primetime host expressed anger towards Trump.
Carlson said that “we’re really, really close to being able to ignore Trump most nights” and that “I really can’t wait”.
Carlson said he had no doubt that there was fraud in the 2020 election, but that Trump and his lawyers have so discredited their case — and media figures like him — “that it is irritating. It absolutely infuriates me.”
Federal and state officials, courts, exhaustive reviews in battleground states, and Trump’s attorney general have found no widespread fraud that could have changed the outcome of the 2020 election, even though Trump continues to falsely claim the presidency was stolen from him.
Addressing Trump’s four years as president, Carlson said: “We are all pretending that we have a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it has been is very difficult to digest. But let’s go. There really isn’t an edge on Trump.”
In another text exchange more than a month earlier, Carlson decried Trump’s business skills: Trump’s talent, he said, is “to destroy things. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
Fox, in response to this and other court evidence that was released on Tuesday, said “Dominion was caught red-handed using further distortions and misinformation in its public relations campaign to smear Fox News and trample on free speech and the freedom of the press. We already know they will say and do anything to try and win this case, but cheering and even assigning citations to the highest levels of our company is truly beyond the pale.”
Fox founder Rupert Murdoch has a complex relationship with Trump: “I wasn’t close with him,” Murdoch said in a deposition in the defamation suit.
Indeed, while Murdoch admitted to talking to Trump occasionally, he said he also sought inside information from Sean Hannity, one of his network’s primetime hosts, because Hannity was the closest person to Trump at Fox.
After Trump’s defeat in November 2020, Murdoch despaired over the president’s behavior.
“The real danger is what he can do as president,” Murdoch wrote in an email to a friend that month. “Apparently he’s not sleeping and bouncing off the walls! I don’t know about Melania, but kids don’t help.
But Murdoch told his network officials that he didn’t want to “antagonize” Trump either: “He had a huge following and they were probably mostly Fox viewers, so it would have been stupid,” Murdoch said in a deposition in the Dominion case.
In separate questioning in the case, Murdoch acknowledged that he believed the 2020 presidential election “wasn’t stolen”.
Recently, on social media, Trump criticized Fox when other court documents released in the Dominion case made it clear that several network executives and personalities believed the allegations of voter fraud were false.
Trump and his team also accused Fox of giving little thought to his latest campaign for the presidency and of favoring a possible candidate for the Republican nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
In a fiery speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee last week, Trump ally Steve Bannon complained that Fox had disrespected the former president.
“You considered that Trump will not be president,” Bannon said. “Well, we assume you won’t have a net.”
On Saturday afternoon. Fox News carried Trump’s CPAC speech in full.
Riccardi reported from Denver. Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta, Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix, Gary Fields in Washington, and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.
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