Current and former hosts of Fox News shows Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro last week asked a court to dismiss a $2.7 billion defamation
by voting-machine company Smartmatic. Their arguments echo some of the points that I expected them to make in their defense.
Smartmatic's suit claimed the show hosts had hurt
the company's reputation with on-air statements about its products after the presidential election. The company also claimed Fox ran segments with numerous errors about the reliability of hits vote
machines, and that it knew the statements weren't factual.
Fox last week filed its own motion to dismiss Smartmatic's suit, saying its coverage of election fraud claims by President Trump
and his lawyers were newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment.
Dobbs echoed that argument, saying his interviews of Trump's legal team were of public interest. He also
emphasized his show "Lou Dobbs Tonight" was an opinion show with "spirited" commentary, while acknowledging his supportive remarks about the claims by Trump's lawyers.
segment, Dobbs had said: "This is a nation that has just been wronged mightily. Only an idiot would try to claim that there were no irregularities, that there were no anomalies."
Fox Business canceled Dobbs' highly rated show, which ran at 5 p.m. and was repeated at 7 p.m., days after Smartmatic filed its suit, with the network saying it was part of regular programming
changes. Before the cancellation, it had announced plans to add a show hosted by Larry Kudlow, the economist and former CNBC host who was Trump's top economic adviser, to its lineup at 4 p.m. and
repeating at 7 p.m.
Bartiromo and Pirro echoed Dobbs in their filings asking for dismissal. Bartiromo also claimed Smartmatic ignored a chance to appear on her show, and that
Smartmatic was financially motivated by targeting her.
Fox also highlighted several instances when it had given Smartmatic a chance to respond to the allegations from Trump's
legal team. In several cases, Smartmatic's denials of the claims were noted on air.
After Smartmatic sent a letter to Fox in December asking for a "full and complete
retraction of all false and defamatory statements and reports," 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.
The strongest argument by Fox hosts is their claim that
their shows featured "spirited opinion commentary."
MSNBC took a similar tack in its defense of anchor Rachel Maddow, who had been sued by One America News Network after she described the
conservative news outlet as "paid Russian propaganda." The suit was dismissed last year, and One America filed an appeal. Expect the court to dismiss Smartmatic's claims on similar grounds.