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Thomas Gallatin / February 5, 2021

Fox News Hit With Massive Lawsuit Over Voting Machine Coverage

Smartmatic, maker of voting machines and software, filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against the media outlet.

On Thursday, Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News alleging that the conservative media outlet “joined the conspiracy to defame and disparage Smartmatic and its election technology and software.” The company, which makes voting machines and software, further asserted — dramatically, we might add — that “the story turned neighbor against neighbor” and “led a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.”

Smartmatic’s suit identifies two Fox News guests, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, as well as some of the outlet’s opinion anchors — Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro — for spreading false and damaging information regarding the company’s voting machines and software. Smartmatic noted that its technology was only used in one county, Los Angeles County, during the 2020 general election.

Fox News responded to the lawsuit by saying it “is committed to providing the full content of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion.” Moreover, the network said, “We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court.”

Given that allegations have been made against opinion hosts and their guests, the realistic possibility of Smartmatic winning this lawsuit in court seems unlikely. Add to this the fact that in December Fox News ran segments pointedly noting that no evidence had been found to substantiate claims that voting machines of any kind had manipulated votes. The Wall Street Journal, owned by the same News Corp that owns Fox, reports, “Fox News and Fox Business ran interviews on several shows, including programs hosted by Ms. Bartiromo and Mr. Dobbs, featuring voting technology expert Edward Perez, who pushed back on claims that Smartmatic software was used to meddle in the voting process.”

It appears that given the popularity of conspiracy theories surrounding manipulation of voting machines, Smartmatic needed to act to confront the misinformation. The trouble is, how does one put the toothpaste back into the tube?

While Fox News clearly entertained the claims of voter fraud via voting machine manipulation, those claims were limited to their opinion programs. As The Washington Post observes, “Smartmatic’s lawsuit may test whether a network can be held financially responsible for things said by political commentators, or even by their guests.” Furthermore, the notion that a news organization should be held liable for the claims and opinions espoused by people it interviews will have a chilling effect on journalism.

Finally, expect to see a similar lawsuit against Fox News coming from the more widely used Dominion Voting Systems, as the company has already hit Giuliani and Powell, as well as other news outlets, with hefty defamation lawsuits.

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