Fox News is sued by election tech company, Smartmatic, for over $2.7 billion

By | February 4, 2021

The New York Times reports:

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and three of its popular anchors are the targets of a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit filed on Thursday by a company that became a prominent subject of discredited theories about widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Smartmatic, an election technology company, filed the suit in New York State Supreme Court against the Fox Corporation, Fox News, and the anchors Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro. As part of the same action, the company is suing Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who made the case for election fraud as guests on Fox programs while representing President Donald J. Trump.

In its 276-page complaint, Smartmatic argues that Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell “created a story about Smartmatic” and that “Fox joined the conspiracy to defame and disparage Smartmatic and its election technology and software.”

“The story turned neighbor against neighbor,” the complaint continues. “The story led a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.”

Smartmatic, which provided services for the 2020 election in only one county, filed its suit in the tense aftermath of a vote that Mr. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly and falsely described as rigged or stolen. Right-wing outlets, including Fox and its upstart competitors Newsmax and OANN, have given significant broadcast time to those seeking to subvert the election outcome at a time of a rancorous political divide, when conspiratorial notions have moved into the mainstream.

Smartmatic is seeking damages of “no less than $2.7 billion,” the complaint says, and is requesting a jury trial. Its move against Fox followed two lawsuits filed last month by Dominion Voting Systems: one against Mr. Giuliani, the other against Ms. Powell. Dominion is another company named by conspiracy theorists claiming election fraud.

Even after the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, a deadly riot that was led by Trump loyalists, the talk of fraud has not fully died down. In an appearance Tuesday on Newsmax, Mike Lindell, the MyPillow founder and one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters, launched a verbal attack on Dominion. In a sign that Dominion’s lawsuits have had an effect on right-wing media, the Newsmax co-anchor Bob Sellers cut off Mr. Lindell and read a statement: “The election results in every state were certified. Newsmax accepts the results as legal and final. The courts have also supported that view.”

Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell repeatedly made the case for election fraud while guests on the Fox programs hosted by Ms. Bartiromo, Mr. Dobbs and Ms. Pirro in the weeks after the election, when powerful Republicans in Congress were sowing doubts about the election outcome and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, then the majority leader, had yet to congratulate Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his victory.

Smartmatic said in the complaint that the promotion of false claims on Fox “jeopardized” its “multibillion-dollar pipeline of business”; damaged its election technology and software businesses; and made it difficult for the company to get new business in the United States, where it had made inroads after years of servicing elections in other nations.

“Fox News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion,” a spokeswoman for Fox said. “We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court.”

Ms. Powell, who said she had not seen or received notice of the suit, added: “Your characterization of the claims shows that this is just another political maneuver motivated by the radical left that has no basis in fact or law.”

Ms. Bartiromo, Mr. Dobbs, Ms. Pirro and Mr. Giuliani did not reply immediately to requests for comment.

In its frontal attack on Mr. Murdoch’s media empire, Smartmatic argues that Fox cast it as a villain in a fictitious narrative meant to help win back viewers from Newsmax and OANN. Each saw ratings surge in the weeks after the election thanks to their embrace of the fiction that Mr. Biden was not the rightful victor. The Smartmatic suit also argues that Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell sought to enrich themselves and improve their standing with Mr. Trump’s supporters by making claims that were damaging to the company.

The Fox Corporation, with about 9,000 employees, is run by Mr. Murdoch, 89, and his elder son, Lachlan, its chief executive. For the company, $2.7 billion would be a hefty penalty. Fox Corporation made $3 billion in pretax profit on $12.3 billion in revenue from September 2019 to September of last year. It is valued at about $17.8 billion. [Continue reading…]

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