Business & Economy

Fired Fox News producer says she'd testify against the network in $1.6 billion suit

A former senior producer for Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Maria Bartiromo is offering herself as a star witness for Dominion Voting System's $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network.

Abby Grossberg, the former producer, makes the offer in amended lawsuits filed in federal court in New York and state court in Delaware, where the Dominion case is playing out. Fox fired Grossberg last week after she sued the network for allegedly pressuring her to lie under oath and downplay claims of misogyny.

In the legal documents, Grossberg alleges that Fox attorneys "coerced, intimidated, and misinformed" her before she sat for a questioning by a Dominion attorney last September.

Should the Dominion case go before a jury next month as scheduled, the legal complaint says Grossberg "will never testify on behalf of Fox News in the trial" and "will only voluntarily testify — if at all — on behalf of Dominion."

Dominion on Monday said it had no comment about Grossberg's complaint.

The company is suing Fox News over lies it broadcast following the 2020 election. Fox News repeatedly had on guests who claimed, without evidence, that Dominion's voting technology switched votes for then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

Grossberg had worked as a senior booking producer for Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo until last year when she took a job with Carlson. Her complaint in Delaware focuses primarily on the actions of the Fox attorneys who prepared her for her deposition. She names Fox News attorneys Stephen Potenza and Lesley West and two lawyers from their lead outside law firm, Winston & Strawn, as defendants.

Grossberg's federal suit, which contains numerous allegations of sexism and anti-Semitism in the workplace, names Carlson as a defendant, along with the network and top executives.

Fox had sought a restraining order against Grossberg to prevent her from publicly disclosing information linked to the Dominion suit but dropped that case soon after she filed.

When asked about the reason behind Grossberg's firing, a Fox spokesperson said on Monday: "Like most organizations, FOX News Media's attorneys engage in privileged communications with our employees as necessary to provide legal advice. Last week, our attorneys advised Ms. Grossberg that, while she was free to file whatever legal claims she wished, she was in possession of our privileged information and was not authorized to disclose it publicly."

"We were clear that if she violated our instructions, Fox would take appropriate action including termination. Ms. Grossberg ignored these communications and chose to file her complaint without taking any steps to protect those portions containing Fox's privileged information," the statement continued.

Fox earlier said it had hired an outside lawyer to investigate Grossberg's concerns. It says it has transformed the network's culture under chief executive Suzanne Scott. The late Fox News chairman Roger Ailes was ousted in 2016 after a raft of accusations of sexual harassment, which he denied.

Grossberg points blame at a top Fox News executive

Grossberg maintains that Fox attorneys encouraged her to give evasive and false answers while being deposed by Dominion's lawyers. She offers more thorough and possibly damaging answers in an errata sheet — the legal document used to correct mistakes in a deposition transcript — filed with her amended complaint in Delaware.

Grossberg now says that, in 2020, then-Fox News executive David Clark approved guests for Maria Bartiromo's show, including those like Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani who repeated baseless election-fraud claims. Grossberg writes that Clark was "keyed into what content the top brass at Fox News was looking for" and was the one who stepped in to challenge "questionable content."

"That did not happen with respect to Dominion-related reporting which was allowed to receive significant airplay without any evidence implicating them in any way," Grossberg's filing states.

When asked about Clark in her September deposition, Grossberg had told Dominion attorneys that it was "not fair to say" she disliked him. Grossberg now says Clark created a hostile work environment and discriminated against women at Fox News.

She also alleges that Fox executives, including Clark, denied her repeated requests for support and passed her over for promotions, instead favoring male colleagues.

Clark is now an executive at Fox Weather but was the executive over weekend programs during fall 2020.

Grossberg says Maria Bartiromo had ‘responsibility to push back against untrue statements’

Dominion accuses Fox of amplifying such false allegations against the company to curry favor with millions of Trump fans who peeled away from Fox after it became the first TV network to project that Biden would win the key state of Arizona on Election Night 2020. Grossberg says Bartiromo was "obsessed" with ratings because of the importance Fox placed on it.

In her new legal filing, Grossberg recanted her sworn statement to Dominion attorney Davida Brooks that Fox did not have an obligation to correct false claims made on the network's shows. "[A]lthough our guests had the right to answer how they pleased, it was Maria's responsibility to push back against untrue statements with facts, or follow-up questions," Grossberg said in what she presented as the answer she should have given.

She also acknowledges receiving many messages from Dominion seeking to correct the falsehoods, but says she did not read all of them because they "all looked the same" at a glance, and she had too much to do on a show she describes as severely short-staffed.

Grossberg also said she withdrew her statement that she trusted the producers at Fox with whom she worked. She now would answer: "No, I don't trust all of [the] producers at Fox." She added: "They're activists, not journalists, and impose their political agendas on the programming."

Grossberg says she feared becoming ‘star witness’ for Dominion

For its part, Fox News maintains that the election fraud claims it broadcast were inherently newsworthy, and thus warranted air time, because they came from a sitting president or his advocates.

Grossberg says she left prep sessions with Fox attorneys with the impression that she had to "downplay the importance of show ratings at Fox News, as this would suggest a motive for why Fox News had allowed the stories about Dominion to go on air in the first place."

She alleges the Fox lawyers implied that she would be fired if she did not portray the network favorably in her deposition.

In her complaint, Grossberg says she was "conditioned to constantly remember that she could not do anything to jeopardize her new position [as a senior producer for Tucker Carlson], such as becoming Dominion's 'star witness,' so she again kept quiet."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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