Court Denies Fox News' Bid To Dismiss $2.7B Election Fraud Lawsuit
A New York State appellate court has rejected Fox News’ motion to dismiss a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against it for falsely accusing an election technology company, Smartmatic, of rigging the 2020 presidential election against then-President Donald Trump.
Smartmatic sued Fox News Channel and some of its personalities in February 2021, alleging they had peddled and amplified false far-right lies about its election technology to one-up other right-wing networks vying for the pool of Trump voters. Dominion is also pursuing a separate action against the Fox Corporation, focused on Rupert and son Lachlan Murdoch’s alleged involvement in promoting false election fraud claims on Fox News. That lawsuit is now pending after a court rejected Fox’s motion to dismiss the case last June.
“Fox made over 100 false statements and implications about Smartmatic. The overall theme of the disinformation campaign was that Smartmatic fixed, rigged, and stole the 2020 U.S. election. That is absolutely false,” the company stated on its website.
In a 5-0 decision Tuesday, the appellate court’s judges ruled that Fox News, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and Maria Bartiromo knew that the election software conspiracy theories were false — or, at least, doubted the veracity of the allegations — but broadcasted them, anyway.
“The complaint alleges in detailed fashion that in their coverage and commentary, Fox News, Dobbs, and Bartiromo effectively endorsed and participated in the statements with reckless disregard for, or serious doubts about, whether the assertions or implications that plaintiffs had participated in election fraud had any basis in truth or were supported by any reliable evidence,” the unanimous opinion read.
Fox News, Bartiromo, and Dobbs also stand accused of “stat[ing] that Smartmatic’s election technology and software were widely used in the 2020 election… when they actually knew, or easily could have known had they not purposefully avoided publicly available knowledge, that in 2020, the Smartmatic technology was used only in Los Angeles County,” the opinion added.
For this reason, the appeal court overturned a lower court judge’s decision last March to dismiss Smartmatic’s claims again Pirro, writing, “the claims against Pirro, which are based on similar allegations of defamatory statements made with actual malice, must be reinstated.”
“Pirro thought she was out of the case. She isn’t,” a media lawyer, Mitchell Epner, told Law and Crime, adding that the decision was a “very bad day for Fox News and their personnel.”
The ruling didn’t conclude whether Fox News was liable for defamation, but it found that Smartmatic had sufficiently presented its claims and earned passage to the next stage of the litigation process, according to Deadline.
The pro-Trump Fox News is also facing a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, accusing the network of lying it colluded with shadowy entities to “steal” the 2020 election from Trump — a charge that mirrors Smartmatic’s.
Erik Connolly, a Smartmatic lawyer, called the ruling a win in Smartmatic’s efforts to hold the network and its boosters to account for spreading false allegations against it.
“We look forward to holding Fox News and the other defendants accountable in court. Smartmatic feels gratified by the decision of the New York appellate court, which has rejected all calls for dismissal by Fox News and its cohorts,” Connolly said.
Fox News insisted that the litigation infringed on its free speech protections because it only covered controversial allegations of election fraud, a matter of public concern, made by the then-president, an important figure in political discourse.
“There is nothing more newsworthy than covering the president of the United States and his lawyers making allegations of voter fraud,” the network said. It also called Smartmatic’s damage claim “outrageous” and a flagrant attempt to deter our journalists from doing their jobs.”
"Freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be protected, in addition to the damages claims being outrageous, unsupported, and not rooted in sound financial analysis," Fox News said, per Reuters.
However, Smartmatic suggested on its website that the false voting machine conspiracy theories had cost it business opportunities and “losing a portion of our opportunities can represent a significant loss of business and undermine future prospects.”
“The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States,” Smartmatic said in its almost 300-page lawsuit. “The election was not stolen, rigged, or fixed. These are facts. They are demonstrable and irrefutable.”
Former Trump “Kraken” lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell are defendants in Smartmatic lawsuits, too. The attorneys “needed a platform to use to spread their story” and “found a willing partner in Fox News,” the election software company stated in its lawsuit.
Tuesday’s ruling restored erstwhile dismissed causes of action against Giuliani, ruling that the “Supreme Court erred in dismissing the third and fifth causes of action as against” the former New York mayor.
A New York judge dismissed Smartmatic claim against Powell on jurisdictional grounds, but the company has since filed another lawsuit against Powell in Washington, DC.
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