Fox Stars Privately Expressed Disbelief About Trump’s Election Fraud Claims

On Nov. 12, in a group text chain among Ms. Ingraham, Mr. Carlson and Mr. Hannity, Mr. Carlson pointed to a tweet in which a Fox reporter, Jacqui Heinrich, fact-checked a tweet from Mr. Trump referring to Fox broadcasts and said there was no evidence of voter fraud from Dominion.

“Please get her fired, ”Mr. Carlson said. He added: “It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” Ms. Heinrich had deleted her tweet by the next morning.

The details offer more than dramatic vignettes from inside a news organization where internal disputes rarely spill into public view. They are pieces of evidence that a jury could use to weigh whether to find Fox liable for significant financial damages. Dominion is asking for $1.6 billion as compensation for the damage it says it suffered as Fox guests and hosts claimed, for instance, that Dominion’s voting machines had been designed to rig elections for the Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez and were equipped with an algorithm that could erase votes from one candidate and give them to another.

Fox Corporation has about $4 billion cash on hand, according to its latest quarterly earnings report.

The burden in the case falls on Dominion to prove that Fox acted with actual malice — the longstanding legal standard that requires Dominion to prove that either Fox guests, hosts and executives knew what was being said on the air was false and allowed it anyway, or that people inside Fox were recklessly negligent in failing to check the accuracy of their coverage.

That burden is difficult to meet, which is why defamation cases often fail.

Many defamation suits are quickly dismissed because of the First Amendment’s broad free speech protections. If they do go forward, they are usually settled out of court to spare both sides the costly spectacle of a trial. The Dominion case has proceeded with a speed and scope that media experts have said is unusual.

For eight months, Dominion lawyers have taken depositions from dozens of people at all levels of the network and its parent company. Mr. Murdoch was deposed last month. (Dominion’s brief was written before that deposition and does not reflect its contents, which remain under seal.) Mr. Hannity, one of the most popular prime-time hosts and a close Trump ally, has been deposed twice. And the personal phones and emails of many midlevel employees have been searched as part of the discovery process, which people inside the company have said has created an atmosphere of considerable unease.