The election technology company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation suit against Fox Corp. and a slew of its most high-profile performers Thursday, alleging that Fox News and Fox Business Network’s persistent airing of unfounded voter fraud claims implicating Smartmatic has left the company “decimated.” The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, cites “100 false statements and implications” related to the Fox coverage, and specifically names Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro, as well as prominent half-cocked guests Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.
Smartmatic, which is a player in creating voting infrastructure around the world, says, despite the outlandish rhetoric from Trumpworld, it’s election technology was only used in a single county during the 2020 U.S. election—Los Angeles County, where the company helped implement a pandemic-safe voting system. That didn’t stop the far-right misinformation mill from going into overdrive with outlandish claims ultimately making their way to Trump enablers Giuliani and Powell, who went on a national election misinformation tour in the weeks and months following the vote. Fox News and Fox Business Network were there to lend a hand getting the word out, no matter how ridiculous the allegation.
“Among the dozens of examples cited in the suit is a Nov. 12 episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight, in which Giuliani claimed that Smartmatic was founded by three Venezuelans close to former dictator Hugo Chávez ‘in order to fix elections,’” the Washington Post notes. “Dobbs thanked Giuliani for being ‘on the case,’ which the host said ‘has the feeling of a coverup in certain places.’ ” Hugo Chávez died in 2013 and, as you might imagine, didn’t actually have anything to do with anything, much less creating a magic voting system that allowed votes to be switched without detection, as the far-right conspiracies contrived.
The smear reverberated, the company’s suit says, such that Smartmatic became “known by voters in the United States and abroad as a criminal that stole the 2020 U.S. election.” The association with the Trump-fueled, Fox-aired misinformation exacted a huge reputational and financial cost, the company says in its suit. This could be perilous—and expensive—legal ground for Fox Corp., which is valued at nearly $18 billion, because the financial harm is pretty explicit as are the instances of willful misrepresentation of the truth that could fall outside of First Amendment protections. The network has made some effort on air to walk back a few of its claims in response to Smartmatic’s legal challenges, but the damage has already been done.
“FOX News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion,” Fox News said in a statement in a response to the suit. “We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend against this meritless lawsuit in court.” Another concocted villain in the 2020 election, Dominion Voting Systems, has also filed multibillion dollar defamation suits against Giuliani and Powell for similar reasons. Other far-right networks, like Newsmax, could be next.
Update, Feb. 5, 2021: This post was updated after publication with a statement from Fox News.
— to slate.com