Court Battles

Fox News labels $2.7B Smartmatic defamation suit ‘meritless’ in motion to dismiss

Fox News has filed a motion to dismiss a $2.7 billion defamation case brought by electronic voting firm Smartmatic.

Smartmatic filed the lawsuit last week, saying the network defamed them by airing baseless conspiracy theories about its role in the 2020 presidential election.

The lawsuit specifically cited Fox News hosts Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo and former host Lou Dobbs, who was dismissed by the network the day after the suit was filed. Smartmatic also sued each of the three hosts individually.

The lawsuit cites segments that echoed false claims, including the suggestion that the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was connected with unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud.

In addition to the conspiracy theories, the suit also cites more mundane incorrect statements such as the claim that the company’s services were used in multiple battleground states when it was in fact only used in Los Angeles County.

In Fox News’s motion to dismiss filed with the New York Supreme Court, the network argued the suit should be dropped based on First Amendment grounds and said that Smartmatic’s suit “fails to allege that Fox published the challenged statements with actual malice.”

The network further argued the claims were noteworthy due to their promotion by then-President Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

“In that context, interviewing the President’s lawyers is fully protected First Amendment activity, whether those lawyers can substantiate their claims or not,” the motion stated. “Here, Fox was providing precisely that kind of newsworthy information — typically allowing the President’s surrogates to explain their allegations and evidence themselves.”

In a statement, Fox News Media said it had moved to dismiss the suit because it is “meritless.”

“If the First Amendment means anything, it means that Fox cannot be held liable for fairly reporting and commenting on competing allegations in a hotly contested and actively litigated election. We are proud of our election coverage which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism,” the statement said.

The motion also claims Smartmatic constituted the equivalent of a public figure, which would mean a higher bar for defamation requiring proof that the defendants knew they were making false claims. It also submitted what it said were examples of coverage fact-checking falsehoods by the three hosts and establishing their claims as opinion.

Separately, another voting firm, Dominion, has sued several promoters of similar false claims, including pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. While the company has not yet sued Fox News, an attorney said “we have not ruled anyone out” in January.

In a statement to The Hill, Smartmatic lawyer J. Erik Connolly the company “is confident in its case and looks forward to briefing these issues for the Court.” 
Updated 12:54 p.m.
Tags 2020 election Donald Trump Fox News Jeanine Pirro Lawsuit Lou Dobbs Maria Bartiromo Rudy Giuliani Smartmatic Voting systems

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