Stephen Colbert just wanted to see media mogul Rupert Murdoch take the stand in court and “put his hand on the Bible and burst into flames.”
But it was too much to ask for once Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems reached a $787.5-million settlement, allowing the conservative news giant to avoid what promised to be a revealing defamation trial.
“I want my trial — you were supposed to provide me six weeks of delicious content!,” Colbert sounded off Tuesday evening, staring angrily into the camera during the opening monologue of “The Late Show,” before hurling the Murdoch-Bible joke.
The trial aside, Colbert was most bitter that Fox News won’t have to apologize for spreading false claims about the 2020 elections, nor will its anchors be required to read any contrite statements or retractions on the air.
“I guess it’s satisfying for Dominion that Rupey [Murdoch] had to fork over a pile of cash,” Colbert said in the opening segment of “The Late Show.” “But that does nothing for our democracy.”
If the trial had moved forward, the jury would have determined whether Fox News acted with malice by deliberately airing false statements about the voting-machine maker after the 2020 presidential elections. The network was largely amplifying former President Trump’s baseless “Stop the Steal” narrative of voter fraud.
“What we need is Fox News personalities to look straight into the camera to admit they lied over and over again about the 2020 election,” Colbert continued, “and then hurl themselves into Mt. Doom.”
Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel joined the roast on his “Live!” show, calling out Dominion for taking the money, “which means the liars who knowingly misled their oatmeal-brain viewers, and seriously damaged our democracy, don’t have to say anything at all.”
“[Fox News] can go right back to sodomizing the country, while Dominion and their lawyers go shopping for yachts,” Kimmel quipped.
The massive settlement is one of the largest in a defamation case. And “The Daily Show” guest host Jordan Klepper poked fun at Fox News’ expense by listing some of the network’s “cost-cutting measures.”
“Sadly they have to fire Brian Kilmeade’s reading tutor,” Klepper said, flashing a photo of the “Fox & Friends” co-host. “Jeanine Pirro has to switch to the cheap box of wine; development on a third Doocy has been halted; they’re gonna have to switch from Jesse Watters to tap waters; and, of course, they’re gonna have to put down Sean Hannity.” (He was referring to father-and-son staffers Steve and Peter Doocy.)
Klepper also lamented the trial that never was, which he said would have been like the “Seinfeld” series finale, but “instead of soup Nazis, it’s just …” he said with a shrug and smirk, allowing the audience to fill the silence with roaring applause and laughter, before continuing: “It’s Nazis.”
Fox addressed the settlement on Tuesday, attempting to soften the blow. “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” the statement said. “This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”
Colbert played a clip of CNN anchor Jake Tapper reading the statement and cracking up on-air, which Colbert agreed was “hilarious,” drawing roaring applause from the audience.
“They’re already lying in their statement about lying,” echoed Kimmel. “It’s shameless.”
Jimmy Fallon chimed in with a brief joke about Fox News being so stressed about the trial “because they spent the whole day chugging Bud Light,” a reference to the wave of backlash from conservatives against transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney’s partnership with the beer brand.
Fox News is still facing down a second defamation suit filed by a rival voting-machine company, Smartmatic USA, which has demanded $2.7 billion. The network is also dealing with Fox investors who have their own lawsuits, alleging that the 92-year-old Murdoch and other board members were derelict in their duties by allowing Fox News to promote election lies, which harmed the network’s reputation as a news organization.
Times staff writer Stephen Battaglio contributed to this report.