Fox News and its powerful owner, Rupert Murdoch, are facing a second major defamation suit over the network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election, a new front in the growing legal battle over media disinformation and its consequences.
In the latest aftershock of Donald J. Trump’s attempt to undermine President Biden’s victory, Dominion Voting Systems, an election technology company that was at the center of a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy about rigged voting machines, sued Fox News on Friday for advancing lies that devastated its reputation and business.
Dominion, which has requested a jury trial, is seeking at least $1.6 billion in damages. The lawsuit comes less than two months after Smartmatic, another election tech company, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and named the Fox anchors Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro as defendants.
In a 139-page complaint filed in Delaware Superior Court, Dominion portrayed Fox as an active player in spreading falsehoods that the company had altered vote counts and manipulated its machines to benefit Mr. Biden in the election.
Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell for defamation. The company also sued Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow and a Trump ally who was also a frequent guest on Fox and other conservative media outlets. Each of those suits seeks damages of more than $1 billion.
“The truth matters,” Dominion’s lawyers wrote in Friday’s complaint against Fox. “Lies have consequences. Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”
In a statement on Friday, Fox said that its 2020 election coverage “stands in the highest tradition of American journalism” and pledged to “vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”
Dominion’s filing on Friday represented what its lawyers called a new phase in its battle against its detractors, and Thomas A. Clare, part of the company’s legal team, said it was unlikely to be the last lawsuit filed. His firm, Clare Locke, has in recent weeks joined with the firm Susman Godfrey, which is known for taking cases to trial.
filed a motion to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit, arguing that the false claims of electoral fraud made on its channels were part of covering a fast-breaking story of significant public interest. “An attempt by a sitting president to challenge the result of an election is objectively newsworthy,” Fox wrote in the motion.
The narrative that Mr. Trump and his allies spun about Dominion was among the more baroque creations of a monthslong effort to cast doubt on the 2020 election results and convince Americans that Mr. Biden’s victory was not legitimate.
Dominion, founded in 2002, is one of the largest manufacturers of voting machine equipment in the United States; its equipment was used by election authorities in more than two dozen states last year, including several states carried by Mr. Trump.
Allies of Mr. Trump falsely portrayed Dominion as biased toward Mr. Biden and argued, without evidence, that it was tied to Hugo Chávez, the long-dead Venezuelan dictator. John Poulos, Dominion’s founder, and other employees received harassing and threatening messages from people convinced that the company had undermined the election results, according to the complaint.
Fox News and Fox Business programs were among the mass-media venues where Mr. Trump’s supporters denounced Dominion. The lawsuit also cites examples of Fox hosts, including Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Dobbs, uncritically repeating or vouching for false claims made by Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell.
“Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire,” Dominion wrote in the lawsuit. “As the dominant media company among those viewers dissatisfied with the election results, Fox gave these fictions a prominence they otherwise would never have achieved.”
faced a reckoning of sorts from the threat of defamation litigation, a relatively novel tactic in a battle against disinformation that had previously been limited to ad boycotts and liberal public pressure campaigns.
In February, two days after Smartmatic filed its suit, Fox Business canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” its highest-rated program. Newsmax, a pro-Trump cable channel also facing potential legal action, cut off Mr. Lindell when he repeated falsehoods about rigged voting machines.
Taken together, Dominion and Smartmatic are demanding at least $4.3 billion in damages from Fox. Controlled by Mr. Murdoch, 90, and his elder son, Lachlan, the Fox Corporation reported that it had made $3 billion in pretax profit from September 2019 to September 2020, on revenue of $12.3 billion.
the network’s early projection that Mr. Biden would carry Arizona.
Dominion also makes the case that Fox and its hosts benefited from uncritically repeating these baseless claims. The suit cites a postelection rise in ratings for anchors like Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Dobbs, and notes that the ex-husband of Ms. Pirro, who spoke on-air of a stolen election, later secured a pardon from Mr. Trump.
“Fox has had a problem because a lot of its pundits have said the very things that have led Dominion to bring this lawsuit,” the First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams said in an interview.
In its response to the Smartmatic suit, Fox argued that its reporting on the election should be viewed in its totality — pointing out that at least one host, Tucker Carlson, voiced skepticism about Ms. Powell’s statements — and that claims by the president’s lawyers in an election dispute were inherently newsworthy. “This lawsuit strikes at the heart of the news media’s First Amendment mission to inform on matters of public concern,” Fox wrote in that motion.
Mr. Zick, the First Amendment lawyer, said that Dominion had included an implicit response to that argument: “This isn’t neutral reportage. It’s disinformation for profit.”
HONG KONG — With its multibillion-dollar price tag and big-name artists, M+, the museum rising on Victoria Harbor, was meant to embody Hong Kong’s ambitions of becoming a global cultural hub. It was to be the city’s first world-class art museum, proof that Hong Kong could do high culture just as well as finance.
It may instead become the symbol of how the Chinese Communist Party is muzzling Hong Kong’s art world.
In recent days, the museum, which is scheduled to open later this year, has come under fierce attack from the city’s pro-Beijing politicians. State-owned newspapers have denounced the museum’s collection, which houses important works of contemporary Chinese art, including some by the dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Hong Kong’s chief executive has promised to be on “full alert” after a lawmaker called some works an “insult to the country.”
The arts sector broadly has endured a blizzard of attacks. A government funding body said last week that it has the power to end grants to artists who promoted “overthrowing” the authorities. A front-page editorial in a pro-Beijing newspaper accused six art groups of “anti-government” activities.
arrested opposition politicians and moved to overhaul elections. They have also pulled books from library shelves and reshaped school curriculums.
projected a Chinese flag onto the ground for viewers to walk on. Another used Tibetan script to express fears that Hong Kong would become similarly controlled.
Concerns about independence have dogged M+ from its conception more than a decade ago . The museum acquired a number of high-profile works, including an image of Mr. Ai raising his middle finger in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and photographs by Liu Heung Shing of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations there. Immediately, officials warned the museum to steer clear of politics.
But optimism also coursed through Hong Kong’s art world over the past decade. The government had increased financial support. Art Basel, the international arts fair, hosts an annual show in Hong Kong.
turned tents used to occupy the central business district into canvases. In 2019, they hauled a 13-foot statue of a woman in a gas mask to marches.
Mr. Ai said he supported the museum’s 2012 acquisition of his works from Uli Sigg, a renowned collector, noting Hong Kong’s ambition to become a world-class art city and the M+ team’s reputation.
“I was very positive at the time,” said Mr. Ai, who left China in 2015. “I felt that if my work could be displayed where there were many Chinese people, I’d be very happy.”
Then the pro-Beijing camp pounced this month with a full-out barrage. On Mar. 15, the Hong Kong Film Critics Society canceled sold-out screenings of a documentary about the 2019 protests, after a pro-Beijing newspaper urged banning it. Two days later, another paper accused six arts organizations of violating the security law and called on the government to revoke their funding.
said during a question-and-answer session with Carrie Lam, the chief executive.
The criticisms have extended beyond politics to a sort of moral policing. Some have denounced M+ holdings that depict nudity or homosexuality.
Evans Chan knew some considered his work too provocative. A Hong Kong venue in 2016 canceled a screening of a documentary he made about the 2014 protests, citing a desire to remain “nonpartisan.” Last year, he finished a sequel, only to cut a scene for Hong Kong audiences that featured China’s national anthem; a new law forbade disrespecting the song.
Still, Mr. Chan said, the security law was a “watershed moment.” He had planned to make a third film about Hong Kong’s fight for democracy. But he is unsure if he could find people to participate or places to show it — not just in Hong Kong but overseas, in venues with ties to China.
“We are coming to a point to ask, what kind of space is left by global capitalism?” he said. “Where does China fit in? Where does artistic expression from and about Hong Kong fit in?”
Others have urged artists to experiment with the space that remains. Clara Cheung, who runs an arts education space, said she had promoted projects like community murals or a map of Hong Kong’s heritage buildings. Though not explicitly political, they could encourage open-mindedness and civic engagement.
Sampson Wong has focused on small-scale, privately funded projects for the past few years, after officials suspended his temporary lights display at Hong Kong’s tallest building in 2016. It featured a countdown to 2047, the year that China’s promise of semi-autonomy to Hong Kong expires.
“I’m confident that we have already explored the ways” to keep operating independently, Mr. Wong said.
Still, he said he hoped that world would not become entirely siloed from the more institutional, popular art sphere.
In that space, the authorities may be harder to sidestep.
Mr. Ai said staff at M+ had recently called him to affirm their commitment to their principles, and he had been moved by their integrity.
But “with these kinds of things, bottom-up resistance is useless,” he added. “If it is decided from the top that such works can’t be exhibited, then there is nothing they can do.”
Joy Dong contributed research.
The Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, an international team of radio astronomers that has been staring down the throat of a giant black hole for years, on Wednesday published what it called the most intimate portrait yet of the forces that give rise to quasars, the luminous fountains of energy that can reach across interstellar and intergalactic space and disrupt the growth of distant galaxies.
The black hole in question is a monster 6.5 billion times as massive as the sun, and lies in the center of an enormous elliptical galaxy, Messier 87, about 55 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. Two years ago, the team photographed it, producing the first-ever image of a black hole; the hitherto invisible entity, a porthole to eternity. It looked like a fuzzy smoke ring, much as Albert Einstein’s equations had predicted a century ago.
The group has spent the last two years extracting more data from their observations about the polarization of the radio waves, which can reveal the shape of the magnetic fields in the hot gas swirling around the hole.
Now, seen through the radio equivalent of polarized sunglasses, the M87 black hole appears as a finely whiskered vortex, like the spinning fan blades of a jet engine, pumping matter into the black hole and energy outward into space.
two papers published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, and in a third paper, by Ciriaco Goddi of Radboud University in the Netherlands and a large international cast, that has been accepted by the same journal.
Dark demons of the cosmos
the Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration that now comprises some 300 astronomers from 13 institutions.
The telescope is named after the point of no return around a black hole; beyond the event horizon, all light and matter is consumed. In April 2017, when the telescope spent 10 days observing M87, it consisted of a network of eight radio observatories around the globe — “a telescope as big as the world,” as Dr. Doeleman likes to say, able to spot details as small as an orange on the moon. The team then took two years to process the data. The results came together in April 2019, when Dr. Doeleman and his colleagues presented the first-ever images — radio maps, really — of a black hole, the monster in M87.
framed by a swirling doughnut of radiant gas in the center of the galaxy Messier 87.
“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” Dr. Doeleman said at the time. The picture appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world, and a copy is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
But that was only the beginning of the journey inward.
Inside the dynamo
It took another two years for researchers to produce the polarized images released on Wednesday.
Jets and lobes of radio, X-ray and other forms of energy extend more than 100,000 light-years from the black hole in M87. Much of this radiation comes from energetic electrical particles spiraling around in magnetic fields.
The newly processed image allows the astronomers to trace these fields back to their origins, in a hot, chaotic ring of electrified gas, or plasma, about 30 billion miles across — four times as wide as the orbit of Pluto. That achievement is made possible because the light from the disk is partly polarized, vibrating more in one direction than in others.
“The direction and intensity of the polarization in the image tells us about the magnetic fields near the event horizon of the black hole,” said Andrew Chael, an astrophysicist at Princeton University who is part of the Event Horizon team.
Astronomers have debated for years whether the magnetic fields surrounding so-called low-luminosity black holes like M87 were weak and turbulent or “strong” and coherent. In this case, Dr. Chael said, the magnetic fields are strong enough to disrupt the fall of the gas and transfer energy from the spinning black hole to the jet.
“The E.H.T. images also provide hints that the bright jet in M87 is actually powered from the rotational energy of the black hole, which twists the magnetic fields as it rotates,” said Michael Johnson another Event Horizon member from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
As a result, Dr. Doeleman said, “This gives the emitted radio waves the azimuthal twist” observed in the curving pattern of the new, polarized images. He noted that azimuthal twist would be a “fine name for a cocktail.”
A byproduct of the work, Dr. Doeleman said, was that the astronomers were able to estimate the rate at which the black hole is feeding on its environment. Apparently it isn’t terribly hungry; the black hole is eating “a paltry” one-thousandth of the mass of the sun per year.
“Yet it’s enough to launch powerful jets that stretch for thousands of light years, and it’s radiant enough for us to capture it with the E.H.T.,” he said.
Dr. Doeleman is already laying the groundwork for what he calls the “next generation” Event Horizon Telescope, which will produce movies of this magnetic propulsion structure in action.
“This is really the next big question,” Dr. Doeleman said. “How do magnetic fields extract energy from a spinning black hole? We know it happens, but we don’t know how it works. To solve that, we will need to create the first black hole cinema.”
Dr. Kendi’s book, a memoirish argument that Americans of all races must confront their roles in a racist system, has drawn attention, and controversy, for pulling the word “racist” away from its current usage as a hypercharged word reserved for the clearest cases. He thinks the word should be attached to actions, not people, and used to describe supporting policies — like standardized testing — that produce a racially unequal outcome. The focus on outcomes helped put Dr. Kendi at the center of the long-running argument about the roots of inequality. But when he published his book, he said, he was bracing for criticism from the left. It had become an axiom in some circles that Black Americans can’t be racist by definition. But the people committing racist acts in his book include President Barack Obama and Dr. Kendi himself.
And so Dr. Kendi’s work has influenced a growing newsroom debate over using the word descriptively, as an assertion about policy, rather than as a hazy, charged personal epithet. The 2019 book, and the intense focus on racism after the killing of George Floyd the next year, also transformed Dr. Kendi from a well-regarded but low-key academic networker into a mainstream, best-selling author whose book is sold at Logan Airport. He’s become what one of his friends called “Captain Black America” — a Black academic or journalist who becomes a lightning rod for the right and the object of white liberal adulation, as Ta-Nehisi Coates did after his 2014 Atlantic article making the case for reparations.
“If he didn’t exist, his critics would need to invent him, because he’s a person they can target,” said The New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb.
Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to Dr. Kendi. But on his way home to put his daughter to bed Thursday, he gamely submitted to a short interview in the lobby of a Boston University building, double masked and wearing three layers of wool against the cold rain. While I waited, I read on Twitter about Alexi McCammond, a young Black woman forced to resign as the new editor of Teen Vogue after a controversy regarding racist tweets about Asians she sent as a teenager. I asked him about how his view that “racist” isn’t a permanent label for an individual squares with an unforgiving social media culture and a growing corporate culture that has translated his work into formalized training sessions — the subject of a recent critical opinion piece in The Globe.
Dr. Kendi said he would not “police” how people use his work. “People should be held accountable when they’re being racist, but I think people should be able to repair the damage,” he said. “I don’t view ‘racist’ as a fixed category.” He added that he did not believe that “if someone said something racist 20 years ago or even two days ago that right now, in this moment, they’re also racist.”
That’s not how most Americans, or most reporters, use the word. But it has a clarity and flexibility that make it valuable whether you buy into Dr. Kendi’s broader worldview, which includes sweeping criticism of American capitalism. And The Emancipator is interesting in part because it’s an opportunity to put his ideas into journalistic practice.