Murdoch questioned if Fox News' Hannity, Ingraham "went too far" with voter fraud claims

A Fox News reporter's microphone as seen in Warsaw, Poland on Feb. 21, 2023. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Fox Corp. chair Rupert Murdoch told Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott that hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham may have "went too far" in pushing former President Trump's election fraud claims on the network, according to court documents made public Tuesday.

Driving the news: The redacted documents, which chronicle a string of texts, emails and depositions, portray a network that embraced election conspiracy theories amid declining viewership — despite slamming them privately.

  • Murdoch in particular showed skepticism about Fox News' broadcast of Trump's claims, even as the network's hosts increasingly platformed Trump allies like Sidney Powell.
  • In an email to Scott on Nov. 16, 2020, he wrote that Trump would "concede eventually," the records allege.
  • Murdoch later expressed concern about the network's amplification of Trump's claims in an email to Scott on Jan. 21, 2021: "Still getting mud thrown at us! … Maybe Sean and Laura went too far. All very well for Sean to tell you he was in despair about Trump but what did he tell his viewers?"
  • He also called the baseless voter fraud claims "really crazy stuff" in a text referenced in the documents.

Worth noting: A transcript of his January deposition shows that Murdoch admitted he had not ever seen any credible evidence to suggest Dominion was coordinating a massive effort to steal the election.

  • "You’ve never believed that Dominion was involved in an effort to delegitimize and destroy votes for Donald Trump, correct?" the Dominion lawyer asked.
  • "I’m open to persuasion; but, no, I’ve never seen it," Murdoch replied.

Meanwhile, just two days before the Capitol riot, Fox New's Tucker Carlson texted an unknown coworker about how desperately he wanted to stop covering Trump.

  • "We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights," Carlson said. "I truly can’t wait."
  • "I hate him passionately," he added.

Separately, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo said in text messages with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon that she would not refer to Biden as the president-elect on air.

  • "Omg I'm so depressed. I can't take this," she said.
  • "I want to see massive fraud exposed. Will he be able to turn this around," she said of Trump. "I told my team we are not allowed to say pres elect at all. Not in scripts or in banners on air. Until this moves through the courts."
  • Bannon replied saying, "You are our fighter. Enough with the sad ! We need u."

State of play: The records were released as part of Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News. The voting machine company has accused the network of knowingly spreading misinformation about Dominion's role by those who allege voter fraud.

  • Dozens of Fox News hosts, producers and senior executives are quoted in the court documents.

Fox News said in a statement Tuesday that Dominion is "using more distortions and misinformation in their PR campaign to smear FOX News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press."

  • "We already know they will say and do anything to try to win this case, but to twist and even misattribute quotes to the highest levels of our company is truly beyond the pale."

Go deeper: Rupert Murdoch admits Fox News hosts peddled election lies

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