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Economy & Business

Amid Lawsuit From Election Tech Company, Fox News Media Cancels 'Lou Dobbs Tonight'

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

On Fox News, they talk a lot about so-called cancel culture - when someone is ostracized for a transgression. Well, now it is one of the - former President Trump's greatest boosters who has gotten canceled from his Fox Business Network show. Very little explanation was given, but it happened just a day after a voting tech company sued Fox, Dobbs and two other Fox News stars for $2.7 billion. That's with a B. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been covering this and joins us now.

Welcome.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is this a cancellation, David, or a sacrifice?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, it's not about ratings. He's one of the top figures at the Fox Business Network. What Fox says is, hey, look; back in October, we told people there'd be changes coming after the elections. This is part of that. It's just hard to credit it. In fact, nobody I've talked to inside Fox, other than their officials, or outside Fox give that any credence at all. The day before, as you mentioned, big lawsuit from Smartmatic - it's a voting tech company - filed a lawsuit against Fox, against Lou Dobbs, against two of his colleagues, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, and against two of the president's lawyers who have appeared frequently on those shows, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Remind us what the lawsuit alleges Dobbs did.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, Smartmatic says that these figures wanted Trump to win and, in fact, said so repeatedly on the air but that they knew he had lost fairly and squarely in the November election. So they essentially bound together in a conspiracy to make completely false claims about this election being stolen from former President Donald Trump. Here's a feel for that kind of thing Rudy Giuliani was saying on Dobbs' Fox show - in this case, in an appearance in mid-November.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT")

RUDY GIULIANI: So we're using a foreign company that is owned by Venezuelans who were close to Chavez - are now close to Maduro. They were founded as a company to fix elections. They have a terrible record, and they are extremely hackable.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, to be clear, David, none of that is true. Actually, beyond that, it's completely fabricated.

FOLKENFLIK: Right. This was not founded by Venezuelans who were close to the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. There's no known history of it being founded as a country to fix or rig elections. And they have a pretty good record. In fact, if you think about the 2020 elections, in some ways, the key fact is just that Smartmatic says - and there's been no proof otherwise - Smartmatic says it's - only was involved in elections in Los Angeles County, a single jurisdiction in a state that was going to go for Joe Biden anyway.

So there were a lot of specific false claims and lies in service of a big lie that Dobbs and, you know, his colleagues gave great credibility to and amplified an affirmation for. And throughout that interview, that clip that we took in that interview, you didn't hear any tough questions, any press-back in Dobbs' interview with Giuliani's claims.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So how is Fox News likely to argue this in court?

FOLKENFLIK: So Fox ran this awkward, brief segment that appeared on all three shows with a nonpartisan voting software expert named Eddie Perez in which he was asked specific questions about Smartmatic that denied a lot of these specific allegations. The network has pointed this segment as a fact-check, as though somehow that gets them off the hook. It's hard to believe any viewers would have been able to make any sense of what it was talking about. I think Fox is going to lean heavily on the idea of, hey, this was opinion. They beat back a lawsuit against Tucker Carlson by saying, you can't literally believe anything he says. And the judge in that case agreed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You are a longtime Fox watcher. What does this say about where Fox News is right now?

FOLKENFLIK: I think it's a testament to the size and gravity of the lawsuit. It could confront - force Fox to confront the violence it's done to the facts here, which has never been willing to do. It just had to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle another lawsuit about a false story about a slain Democratic aide, but it didn't apologize or explain to the public. That's what a real news organization does. When it gets something really wrong, it apologizes and explains exactly what it got wrong and how it went wrong. Fox had real reporters, but that's not the point of the network. It doesn't operate like a real news organization. The question is, will this lawsuit force it to confront the falseness that it's been purveying with real harm for lo these many weeks?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's David Folkenflik.

Thank you very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.