Fox Corporation on Monday filed a motion to dismiss the $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit brought against it last week by Smartmatic, the multinational company that builds and implements electronic voting systems, which was one of the epicenters of charges and countercharges surrounding the bitterly-contested 2020 presidential election.
The lawsuit charges Fox, along with three Fox anchors — Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and Lou Dobbs, whose show was canceled the day after the suit was filed — with “spreading falsehoods” that Smartmatic tried to rig the election against Donald Trump.
Smartmatic also charged each of the three hosts individually.
Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation fought back against the $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit filed last week by the election tech firm Smartmatic. On Monday night, Murdoch’s company filed a motion to dismiss the case. https://t.co/3utmSpphhs
— NYT Business (@nytimesbusiness) February 9, 2021
As reported by The New York Times:
Filed in New York State Supreme Court, Smartmatic’s suit seeks at least $2.7 billion in damages. In addition to Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corporation, Fox News, and the three star anchors, it targets Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, lawyers who made the case for election fraud as frequent guests on Fox programs while representing President Trump.
In its 276-page complaint, Smartmatic, which has requested a jury trial, argues that Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell “created a story about Smartmatic” and that “Fox joined the conspiracy to defame and disparage Smartmatic and its election technology and software.”
“The story turned neighbor against neighbor,” the complaint continues. “The story led a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.”
Incidentally, Dominion Voting Systems, a Smartmatic competitor, filed a $1.3 billion suit against Powell and her “wild accusations” in early January, and a similar $1.3 billion suit against Giuliani in late January, accusing him of having “manufactured and disseminated” a false conspiracy theory involving the company’s voting machines.
In Fox’s motion to dismiss the Smartmatic suit, it argued that even if the unsubstantiated claims made by Giuliani or Powell against the company were false, the claims were still newsworthy because they were promoted by Trump and Giuliani. Per the motion to dismiss:
“In that context, interviewing the president’s lawyers is fully protected First Amendment activity, whether those lawyers can substantiate their claims or not. Here, Fox was providing precisely that kind of newsworthy information — typically allowing the president’s surrogates to explain their allegations and evidence themselves.”
“This lawsuit strikes at the heart of the news media’s First Amendment mission to inform on matters of public concern,” Fox says in the motion, claiming the news outlet merely engaged in “neutral reportage,” thus arguing that it could not be sued for defamation while covering the news, specifically saying “an attempt by a sitting president to challenge the result of an election is objectively newsworthy.”
“While many doubted those claims, no one doubted their newsworthiness,” the motion said.
Fox News files motion to dismiss Smartmatic defamation lawsuit https://t.co/PyRK22x5eo
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (@PittsburghPG) February 9, 2021
I’m sure I’ll be shredded for this — it comes with the territory — but to deny that Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro didn’t all but don cheerleading uniforms and wave pom-poms every time Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell appeared on their respective shows with yet another “biblical case,” a promise to “release the Kraken,” or another conspiracy theory — none of which materialized in a substantive manner — would be to deny reality.
That’s not to suggest they’re “guilty as charged” by Smartmatic and in Giuliani’s and Powell’s cases, Dominion, as well. Understand where I’m coming from here. I’m simply suggesting that Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and Lin Wood, who predicted Vice President Mike Pence would be arrested for treason and executed by firing squad, did far more damage to the credibility of Trump’s challenge of the election results, than good.
In a statement, Fox said it 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 late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said: “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” The problem, for the last 98 days, has been differentiating between the two.