Smartmatic, a maker of voting technology whose name has been the subject of disparaging commentary from a handful of conservative-news outlets, on Thursday said it had sued Fox News and three of its popular on-air personalities — Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro — for more than $2.7 billion, citing efforts made on Fox News programs to disparage the company’s business.
Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, two attorneys who had been working for President Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election that resulted in victory for President Joe Biden, are also named in the suit.
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“One of the biggest challenges in the Information Age is disinformation,” said Antonio Mugica, CEO of Smartmatic, in a statement. “Fox is responsible for this disinformation campaign, which has damaged democracy worldwide and irreparably harmed Smartmatic and other stakeholders who contribute to modern elections.” The complaint was filed in New York State Court in Manhattan.
The damages sought are significant. Walt Disney’s ABC News in 2017 grappled with a $1.9 billion lawsuit from a South Dakota meat producer that alleged the news operation defamed Beef Products Inc. about the safety of low-cost processed beef trimmings referred to in a report as “pink slime.” Disney subsequently disclosed costs of $177 million related to the settlement of the case.
Fox News said it would fight back against the claims. ““Fox News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion. We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court,” the Fox Corporation-owned company said in a statement.
At issue, according to the Boca Raton, Florida, firm are reports broadcast on Fox News Channel in November and December that implied Smartmatic had played some role in rigging the 2020 election. Smartmatic accuses Fox News of repeating the claims and accusations on air and in articles and social-media postings. ““Fox News 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,” said J. Erik Connolly, an attorney at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, LLP who is representing the company. in a statement. Connolly helped represent Beef Products in its lawsuit against ABC News.
Smartmatic accuses the defendants of knowing full well that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris won the election, but “needed a villain. They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate.” Smartmatic cites 13 different reports on Fox News Media programs falsely claiming Smartmatic helped “steal the election” for the victors.
Fox News in December aired prerecorded segments in shows led by the three anchors cited in the lawsuit in which Eddie Perez, an election expert, answers questions from an off-camera questioner. Perez was asked to point to errors in statements made on the shows about the voting-technology firms. Smartmatic had sent a letter seeking a correction and suggesting legal action could be imminent.
Smartmatic’s legal maneuver follows that of Dominion Voting Systems, another voting technology firm. That company last month filed individual lawsuits against Giulilani and Powell. Like Smartmatic, Dominion has been cited in speculation about there being massive election fraud in the 2020 run-off, a claim which has been proven to be false and inaccurate.
Other conservative outlets have seemed wary of pressing election fraud issues in recent broadcasts. On Monday, Mike Lindell, the CEO of direct-response bedding company MyPillow, appeared on the cable outlet Newsmax, and proceeded to launch into a tirade about evidence he purported to have on election fraud. But co-anchor Bob Sellers interrupted Lindell on multiple occasions and it appeared as if the network was lowering the volume of Lindell’s sound as he continued to talk. “We at Newsmax have not been able to verify any of those kinds of allegations,” Sellers said. “We just want to let people know that there’s nothing substantive that we have seen.”