Fox News lawsuit, Jenna Ellis highlights rising costs for Holocaust deniers
But rather than leading to soul-searching or even legally pragmatic thinking within Fox about its own decisions to entertain such theories, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott made an exception. She reacted to the comment from Perino and other on-air talent who verified these claims by saying, “You can’t give the boobies a thumbs up right now. … They seek out and blast every appearance of disrespect to the public.
Two years later, it was Fox who arguably paid the heaviest price for the alleged libel of Dominion and for stolen election claims more broadly. While we don’t yet know if Dominion’s lawsuit against her will prevail, she exposed Fox to a series of embarrassing revelations by simply reaching the discovery stage.
But Fox is not alone. In fact, while the wheels of justice are indeed turning slowly, the penalties for those who baselessly propagate and promote such claims continue to mount.
Just this month, that list has grown to include both a Trump campaign legal adviser and one of the most conspiratorial and Trump-backed candidates to appear on the 2022 ballot.
Trump’s legal adviser, Jenna Ellis, on Wednesday became the latest Trump lawyer to be disciplined for her stolen campaign claims. But what sets her case apart is that, as part of a Colorado Supreme Court settlement in which Ellis was simply censured, she agreed that 10 specific statements she made were “misrepresentations.” “.
She apparently becomes the first Trump lawyer to directly admit that it was wrong to say the election was stolen, even though her former boss continues to say so to this day.
Ellis’s punishment came just days after another high-profile example: the penalization of former Arizona secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem (R) and his attorney by a state judge. Arizona for Finchem’s own stolen election allegations. The judge ruled her efforts to undo her five-point loss in November were ‘baseless and in bad faith’, and she ordered the two to pay the legal costs of Governor Katie Hobbs (D) and the opponent of Finchem in 2022, now- Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D).
Sanctions add to a growing list, which I summarized earlier this year:
- In 2021, nine pro-Trump attorneys, including Powell, were ordered to pay a total of $175,000 in legal fees for filing a frivolous lawsuit in Michigan.
- A federal judge in Colorado has sanctioned two pro-Trump lawyers, calling their false claims “the stuff that violent insurgencies are made of.” Fines of $187,000 in that case were upheld by an appeals court.
- In May, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell was ordered to pay court costs in a lawsuit against voting machine companies. A judge called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said it was based on “baseless allegations”.
- Rudy Giuliani, who was suspended from practicing law in Washington, DC, in 2021, is at risk of being disbarred.
- The Texas Bar has also pushed to disbar Powell in ongoing legal proceedings. This effort was recently derailed due to ranking issues, but could be revived.
Much like Ellis, Powell actually acknowledged that her claims weren’t all she claimed to be, defending herself by suggesting she was merely acting as a lawyer. At the start of the Dominion case, she argued that “reasonable people would not accept” her statements – which included that she had evidence of a stolen election – at face value. She later acknowledged that her claims were only “maybe” true.
In addition to damaging Fox, the Dominion lawsuit revealed that high-ranking executives and hosts repeatedly mocked the ridiculousness of the claims of the most prominent Holocaust deniers and the viewers who believed them.
The 2022 elections have proven to be particularly harsh on the most vocal deniers. While many won thanks to supportive electorates, candidates like Finchem routinely lost and underperformed fellow Republicans when electorates were competitive.
Perhaps because of that, and perhaps because of mounting legal penalties, GOP stolen election fever didn’t run so high after the 2022 election — despite a string of disappointing results. Some like Tucker Carlson have widely waved that our elections continue to be suspect, but more mainstream conservative outlets like Fox are evidently less concerned than they were at the end of 2020 with spreading the claims of ones like failed Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lac.
The situation has parallels with January 6, 2021. While many worried that we came This close to a constitutional crisis, the result was that ultimately – albeit belatedly – the system held firm. False and unsubstantiated claims did not come to light when all was said and done. Our democracy has passed one of the biggest stress tests in its history.
It’s too soon to say that’s also the case with election denial, especially since a strong majority of Republicans continue to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Penalties like those imposed on Ellis, while symbolically significant, are not as severe as many critics had hoped. Trump is still riding the stolen election train headlong into the 2024 GOP primaries. And Fox could prevail in the Dominion lawsuit, given the high bar for proving defamation against a news outlet.
But it is also true that the costs of this quixotic crusade, reputational and otherwise, continue to pile up in ways that serve as cautionary tales to future crusaders.