Wilmington, Delaware (CNN) Jury selection began Thursday in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion libel lawsuit against Fox News for the network’s promotion of right-wing conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.
Almost the entire process took place outside of public view, with Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis privately interviewing potential jurors. Davis said Thursday afternoon he had made good progress and there were “more than enough jurors” to begin the trial as scheduled on Monday, when opening statements are expected.
Jury selection is for the week and no court proceedings are scheduled for Friday.
About 300 potential jurors have been summoned to the Delaware Superior Court and will ultimately be narrowed down to a panel of 12 jurors and 12 alternates. The high-stakes trial — which will highlight Fox’s 2020 election denial and the role of disinformation in American politics — is expected to last about six weeks.
Potential jurors were peppered with questions about their news consumption habits, including whether they watch Fox News. But Judge Davis narrowed the scope of the questioning — he didn’t want the jurors to be asked whether they thought the 2020 election was legitimate or had any connection to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The case revolves around Fox’s decision, after Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, to allow out-of-control Dominion conspiracy theories on its airwaves. The allegations, made by Fox guests and embraced by some Fox hosts, falsely claimed that Dominion and its voting software hijacked millions of ballots from Trump, to steal the election.
Dominion argued that Fox destroyed its reputation as a vote of confidence technology company by repeatedly amplifying these false claims. Emails and texts uncovered during the litigation showed that many hosts, producers and senior Fox executives privately believed the claims on their airwaves were nonsensical and untrue.
High bar, high stakes
Over the past few weeks, Dominion’s case has gained momentum, although the bar is still high for proving defamation. The company will have to convince the jury that the folks at Fox acted with ‘genuine malice’ – they knew what was being said on air was untrue but aired it anyway, or they acted with such reckless disregard for the truth they should be held accountable.
The judge has already rejected several First Amendment defenses that Fox hoped to raise, and he further constrained Fox in a flurry of pretrial rulings this week, barring the right-wing network from trying to argue that the allegedly defamatory statements were ” newsworthy” and therefore deserved coverage.
In the 11th hour, the judge disciplined Fox on Wednesday for withholding evidence from Dominion and said he would appoint outside counsel to investigate whether Fox misled the court and deliberately concealed any additional material at Dominion.
Fox News says it did not defame Dominion and maintains it is still “proud” of its 2020 election coverage. The right-wing network also denied withholding evidence from Dominion.
“The Dominion lawsuit is a political crusade in search of a financial windfall, but the real cost would be cherished First Amendment rights,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement. “While Dominion has pushed irrelevant and misleading information to generate headlines, Fox News remains committed to protecting the rights of a free press, a verdict for Dominion and its private equity owners would have serious consequences for the entire journalistic profession.
— CNN’s Danny Freedman contributed to this article.