Fox News in Hot Water: Smartmatic's Lawsuit Sends Shockwaves Through the Media Industry
Fox News is facing a second, potentially costly, defamation lawsuit in the wake of a series of damning revelations in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion case against them. Voting technology company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion suit against Fox, its anchors, and former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in February of 2021.
The complaint states that Fox News and its anchors spread a series of lies about Smartmatic in an effort to bolster ratings, keep Trump supporters from turning away from the network, and, more broadly, to discredit President Joe Biden’s victory. Smartmatic is suing for the reputational damage that the broadcast of these lies has led to, facts which have been further substantiated by the evidence from Dominion's case.
The complaint also stated that Fox News did not want Biden and Harris to win the election and instead sought to “capitalize on President Trump’s popularity by inventing a story”. Such lies have led to people threatening Smartmatic Elections and personnel, resulting in additional security costs.
New York Supreme Court
Last week, the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan gave the green light for the case to proceed, which has led to Smartmatic taking action to hold Fox accountable for their allegedly false statements. However, Smartmatic has a high bar that they must meet in order to win their case. According to The Guardian, unlike Delaware, where Dominion’s case is currently proceeding, Smartmatic’s case is being filed in New York, where the company must prove “actual malice” to the court. This requires them to show that Fox either knew it was peddling a lie, or that they acted with “reckless disregard for the truth”.
Evidence from Dominion's Case
Harvard constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe told Salon that evidence from Dominion’s case is now in the public domain and can be used to help establish the “reckless indifference to truth” in Fox’s case. George Washington University constitutional law professor Catherine Ross added that the evidence can help with establishing “actual malice”. The evidence will also be helpful in showing that Fox has a business model that deliberately suppresses facts that are likely to reduce its market share and advertising revenues.
Fox News has denied any wrong doing, claiming they are protecting their First Amendment rights and that Smartmatic’s estimates of losses are “outrageous, unsupported and not rooted in sound financial analysis”. The company also argued that Smartmatic is “cherry-picking” in order to smear their name in the media.
The filing alleges that Fox employees and guests made false claims that Smartmatic was a Venezuelan company under the control of corrupt dictators, and that its election technology was used in six close states, including Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. However, Smartmatic’s software was only used in Los Angeles County where Biden’s victory was never in doubt.
The potential outcomes of the case could be a jury awarding multiple billions in punitive damages, which Ross says could “get even Fox News’ attention”. She also posited that the reputational harm could lead to some of their programs going off the air as advertisers may not want to be associated with the network in the wake of this scandal.
It remains to be seen whether Smartmatic will be successful in their lawsuit, but the evidence from Dominion’s case may prove to be key in establishing “actual malice” and thus holding Fox News accountable for their allegedly false statements."