Electronic voting system company Smartmatic has filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News’ owner, Fox News Corporation, accusing the company of repeatedly and falsely reporting that Smartmatic rigged the 2020 election.
In addition to Fox News Corporation, the suit, which was filed Thursday in New York State Court in Manhattan, specifically names Fox personalities Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro. Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and attorney Sidney Powell, to whom Fox News granted extensive airtime, are also defendants.
Smartmatic alleges that Fox News “saw an opportunity to capitalize on President Trump’s popularity” after his 2020 election loss, and that it did not report on the “demonstrable and irrefutable” truth that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory “was not stolen, rigged, or fixed.” Instead, the suit says, the network and its on-air personalities made a “villain” out of Smartmatic ― then smeared it in a monthslong disinformation campaign.
“Defendants’ story was a lie,” the suit reads. “All of it. And they knew it. But, it was a story that sold.”
Fox News knowingly broadcast the falsehood that Smartmatic somehow stole the election 13 times in November and December 2020, the complaint alleges. The claim was also repeated in articles and on social media.
Conspiracy theorists have made many claims against Smartmatic without evidence, including that the company somehow skewed votes in favor of Biden while working in cahoots with the voting system manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems.
Smartmatic’s actual involvement in the 2020 election was quite small; it only to provided technology and support to Los Angeles County.
In addition to generating cash for Fox News — and potentially benefiting individuals, as Trump granted Pirro’s ex-husband a presidential pardon ― the story of election fraud helped the network “preserve its grip on viewers and readers” at the expense of the country, according to the lawsuit:
The story, of course, did more than just make Defendants’ money and jeopardize Smartmatic’s survival. The story undermined people’s belief in democracy. The story turned neighbor against neighbor. The story led a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. Defendants started a fire for selfish and financial reasons and they cared not the damage their story caused to Smartmatic, its officers and employees, and the country.
In an emailed statement, a Fox News Media spokesperson called the lawsuit “meritless” and said the company is “proud” of its 2020 election coverage. (However, Fox News fired Chris Stirewalt, a politics editor involved with the network’s decision to call Arizona for Biden, last month.)
Smartmatic previously sent retraction demands to Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network on Dec. 15, warning that noncompliance could lead to defamation suits.
Soon after, Fox News ran a “fact-checking” segment. None of the personalities named in the lawsuit participated in the roughly two-minute clip, which featured a pretaped interview with Edward Perez of the nonprofit Open Source Election Technology Institute contradicting the election security claims.
Fox News viewership has nosedived of late. In January, its viewership ranked third behind rivals CNN and MSNBC ― a low it hasn’t seen since 2001.
CORRECTION: This article previously misstated that Trump pardoned Pirro’s husband; rather, he pardoned her ex-husband. Language has also been amended to reflect that Chris Stirewalt was not solely responsible for Fox News’ decision to forecast Arizona’s election results for Joe Biden.