Smartmatic this week followed through on its threat to sue Fox News for libel
, seeking $2.7 billion in
damages for what the voting-machine company claims were defamatory on-air statements about its products after the presidential election.
Smartmatic claims Fox ran segments that had
numerous errors about the reliability of its vote machines — and that the news organization knew the statements weren't factual. The 285-page suit names Fox hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and
Jeanine Pirro individually as defendants, along with President Trump's lawyers Rudy Guiliani and Sidney Powell.
The company claims it found "100 false statements and
implications" in Fox segments that damaged its reputation and business prospects. The lawsuit follows a 20-page demand that Smartmatic sent to Fox in December asking for “a full and complete
retraction of all false and defamatory statements and reports" published by the network.
That demand apparently was enough to worry Fox's lawyers, because the network started
airing a segment
featuring an interview with an outside expert who debunked claims about Smartmatic and another voting-machine company, Dominion Voting
Systems. Last month, Dominion sued Giuliani and Powell for defamation.
Federal and state officials have found no evidence that their voting systems deleted votes or changed them
during the 2020 election, and it's unclear if Giuliani and Powell have any tangible evidence to support their claims of improprieties.
Smartmatic's suit lists numerous
examples of statements that Fox hosts made about the company from Nov. 12 through Dec. 10 to present the network's coverage in the worst possible light. The examples by themselves appear damning, but
I would expect Fox's legal team to argue that Smartmatic cherry-picked snippets of the coverage and took it out of context.
Giving air time to Guiliani and Powell isn't
necessarily an endorsement of their election fraud claims, though Smartmatics alleges that Fox's hosts echoed statements by Trump's lawyers. For example, Dobbs repeated the phrase "cyber Pearl
Harbor," a term that Powell used to describe a purported conspiracy to steal the election.
It's a stretch for Smartmatics to claim that Fox's coverage was directly responsible
for the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. That overzealous claim distracts from the key facts in the case, and whether Fox acted with reckless disregard for facts and actual malice in defaming
Fox may argue that Smartmatics was a public figure, a standard libel case that gives news organizations more leeway in what they publish. However, it's safe to
say no one had ever heard of Smartmatics or Dominion before Trump's lawyers accused the companies of helping to rig the election. Ultimately, I expect the case to be dismissed, or perhaps settled for
a nominal sum.