Bartiromo, Pirro, Dobbs file to dismiss Smartmatic lawsuits
Fox News hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro and former host Lou Dobbs filed separate motions on Friday to dismiss defamation lawsuits from Smartmatic, the voting technology company at the center of conspiracy theories about election fraud.
Fox News had previously moved to dismiss the $2.7 billion lawsuit, which alleges the network and its hosts caused financial harm to the company by promoting the claims of election fraud. Smartmatic is also suing attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who have been leading proponents of the claims.
The new motions to dismiss argue that Bartiromo, Pirro and Dobbs are protected journalists under the First Amendment and that Smartmatic posted millions of dollars in losses in 2019, so their business could not have been harmed.
“Smartmatic’s headline-seeking, multi-billion-dollar lawsuit thus should be seen—and rejected—for what it is: an unconstitutional attempt by a money-losing company (Smartmatic reported $17 million in losses on just $144 million in revenue in 2019) to try to refill its coffers at the expense of our constitutional traditions,” a Fox News spokesperson said.
The Hill has emailed Smartmatic and parent company SGO Corp. for comment.
Smartmatic’s lawsuit accused Fox News and former President Trump’s attorneys and former attorneys of creating a “conspiracy to defame and disparage Smartmatic and its election technology and software.”
Trump and his allies have been promoting rumors that voting machine companies with ties to foreign governments rigged the election machinery to switch votes from Trump to now-President Biden. The voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems, which is separate from Smartmatic, was also drawn into the allegations and is suing both Giuliani and Powell.
Smartmatic says its software is only used in Los Angeles County in the U.S. and that it does not have ties to foreign dictators seeking to interfere in the election. The company is seeking $2.7 billion in damages and full retractions.
“With this action, Smartmatic says: Enough. Facts matter. Truth matters. Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to spread disinformation about Smartmatic. They lied. And they did so knowingly and intentionally. Smartmatic seeks to hold them accountable for those lies and for the damage that their lies have caused,” Smartmatic said in the suit.
The motions to dismiss argue that Fox’s hosts did not spread the claims, but rather interviewed those making the claims as news stories that were in the public interest.
Fox argued that Bartiromo in particular invited guests on to challenge those who were making the claims.
“Not only has Smartmatic failed to identify anything that could form the basis of a defamation (or disparagement) claim against Bartiromo; it has failed even to adequately plead actual malice,” Bartiromo’s dismissal states.
The Pirro motion says the debate over the claims are “matters of public concern and widespread importance.”
“The constitutional protection for the free press and related concepts like the fair-report and neutral-report doctrines exist precisely to shield commentary like Pirro’s from the threat of lawsuits seeking massive damages,” the dismissal states.
The motion from Dobbs, a strident Trump supporter whose show was canceled a day after Smartmatic filed its lawsuit, says he was “fully exercising his rights as a member of the press to address matters of public interest” by “interviewing members of the President’s legal team and offering opinions on their allegations.”
The motions were filed by the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which argued that Smartmatic was seeking to “chill vital First Amendment activities.”