Rupert Murdoch is set to be deposed on Tuesday and Wednesday in relation to the $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit between Smartmatic and Fox News. The questioning will take place in Los Angeles and has not appeared on the public docket for the case, according to Reuters.
Smartmatic filed its lawsuit in 2021 after the conservative broadcast giant baselessly touted Trumpian conspiracies that the voting machine company had participated in election fraud. Fox has subsequently spent the better part of the last two years trying and failing to throw the case out of court.
“They needed a villain,” the lawsuit said. “They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.”
“Without any true villain, defendants invented one,” the lawsuit noted. “Defendants decided to make Smartmatic the villain in their story.”
The deposition will be the second time this year that Murdoch has had to sit for questioning related to Fox’s spindly election lies, after the corporation reached a historic $787 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems in April over similar allegations.
Along with Fox Corporation and Fox News, Smartmatic is seeking damages from five individuals: Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, as well as Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, and former host Lou Dobbs. In order to win the defamation case, Smartmatic will need to prove that the defendants spread the lies with “actual malice,” meaning that they either knowingly spread misinformation or recklessly disregarded the truth.
Although Murdoch’s name is missing from the list of defendants, proving that he was personally involved in the decisions that shaped Fox’s coverage while serving as chairman of the company could help Smartmatic prove that Fox Corp is liable.
The 92-year-old retired from his perch as king of his media empire—which encompasses Fox, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and the Dow Jones Newswire, among others—in September, turning the management of the company over to his son, Lachlan Murdoch.