Dem leaders Schumer, Jeffries send Rupert Murdoch letter demanding Fox stop spreading election lies

The leaders asked Fox to acknowledge "negligent behavior" on air.

ByTrish Turner and Allison Pecorin
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Dem leaders send letter demanding Fox stop spreading election lies
Fox News executives refused to let Trump on-air when he called during Jan. 6 attack, Dominion says.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries are calling on Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the media group that owns Fox News, to rein in his conservative media personalities, who he admitted knowingly promoted former President Donald Trump's false election conspiracies, as well as have them "admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior."

"The leadership of your company was aware of the dangers of broadcasting these outlandish claims," the two top congressional Democrats wrote in a letter to Murdoch and other Fox News executives Wednesday. "By your own account, Donald Trump's election lies were 'damaging' and 'really crazy stuff.' Despite that shocking admission, Fox News hosts have continued to peddle election denialism to the American people."

Fox hosts and employees privately doubted the claims they were making on air that Dominion's voting machines had somehow rigged the presidential election in President Joe Biden's favor, according to court documents released on Monday as part of a billion dollar defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems brought against the conservative network.

"They endorsed," Murdoch said under oath in response to direct questions about the Fox hosts, including Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, according to court documents.

"I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight," Murdoch added, while also disclosing that he was always dubious of the false Trump claims of widespread election fraud that his own officials said did not exist.

From left, Senate Majority Leade Chuck Schumer, Chairman of Fox Corp. Rupert Murdoch, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

"This sets a dangerous precedent that ignores basic journalistic fact-checking principles and public accountability," Schumer and Jeffries, both Democrats from New York, wrote. "We demand that you direct Tucker Carlson and other hosts on your network to stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior."

While the two Democrats acknowledged that Murdoch expressed "regret" in the court case, the two lawmakers chastised the media mogul, writing, "Your network hosts continue to promote, spew, and perpetuate election conspiracy theories to this day."

Murdoch, according to court documents, did reject that Fox News writ large embraced the stolen election conspiracy, saying, "Not Fox. No. Not Fox."

On Monday night, Fox News released a statement following the Murdoch revelations, saying, "Dominion's lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims. Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear FOX for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognized for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment."

All of this comes as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed to give one Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, exclusive access to nearly 42,000 hours of surveillance video from the Jan. 6 riot that arose out of Trump's false stolen election narrative, an event that the right-wing host has downplayed. McCarthy did acknowledge to reporters on Tuesday that the tapes will be released more widely though did not give a timeline.

Schumer and Jeffries warned Thursday in their letter that continuing to spread conspiracy theories about the election would risk more violence.

"As evidenced by the January 6 insurrection, spreading this false propaganda could not only embolden supporters of the Big Lie to engage in further acts of political violence, but also deeply and broadly weakens faith in our democracy and hurts our country in countless other ways," the two wrote.

The letter continued, "Fox News executives and all other hosts on your network have a clear choice. You can continue a pattern of lying to your viewers and risking democracy or move beyond this damaging chapter in your company's history by siding with the truth and reporting the facts. We ask that you make sure Fox News ceases disseminating the Big Lie and other election conspiracy theories on your network."

ABC News' Olivia Rubin and Luc Bruggeman contributed to this report.