Commentary

Fox Hosts Present Case For Dismissal Of Libel Suit

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 lawsuitby 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.
In one 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. 

3 comments about "Fox Hosts Present Case For Dismissal Of Libel Suit".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, February 15, 2021 at 9:51 a.m.

    I'm not so sure.  Fox has been yelling "fire" in a crowded theater for far too long and now five people are dead.  I would expect their familes to sue Fox as well...
    http://pjlehrer.blogspot.com/2021/01/you-cant-yell-fire-in-crowded-theater.html

  2. Ben B from Retired replied, February 15, 2021 at 7:32 p.m.

    Wrong Fox News hasn't been yelling fire in the crowded theater for far too long you and those 5 people that did die can't sue Fox News either since Fox News didn't incite violence on Jan 6 which you can't back up. 

  3. Ben B from Retired, February 15, 2021 at 7:39 p.m.

    I agree with Rob Williams that this lawsuit will be thrown out and looks like Smartmatic had their chances to go onto Fox News many times but didn't.

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