Fox News faces $2.7 billion defamation case from voting machine vendor Smartmatic for election disinformation

Fox News Smartmatic

A second voting machine vendor has filed a defamation suit against supporters of former President Donald Trump for claiming that the company was part of an elaborate conspiracy to rig the 2020 presidential election.

Florida-based Smartmatic Corp. is filing the suit against Fox News, some of its better-known news employees and two attorneys close to Trump, Sidney Powell and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The lawsuit accuses them of executing a coordinated disinformation campaign aimed at convincing the public of rampant election fraud.

Essential to the campaign were baseless claims that Smartmatic and its competitor, Dominion Voting Systems Inc., were embroiled in a conspiracy to change enough votes to block Trump’s return to the White House, according to a complaint filed today to the New York State Supreme Court.

Smartmatic, which provides voting equipment to Los Angeles County and numerous foreign governments, is seeking $2.7 billion in damages from Fox News, Giuliani, Powell and the Fox News commentators Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo.

A spokesperson for Fox News Media said the company is, “committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion. We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this merit-less lawsuit in court.” Neither Giuliani nor Powell immediately responded to messages seeking comment.

Smartmatic’s suit follows a pair of similar complaints filed by Dominion against Giuliani and Powell, accusing both of spreading bogus claims for self-promotion and a shot at salvaging a second term for Trump. The case against Giuliani alleges he promoted the election fraud conspiracy to hawk gold coins, cigars and supplements on a podcast. Powell is accused of leading the charge against Dominion by claiming foreign agents had infiltrated its voting software.

After Smartmatic and Dominion began demanding retractions, several right-leaning TV channels, including Fox News, issued on-air clarifications in late-December, distancing themselves from the election rigging conspiracies they’d help promote.

The three Venezuelan co-founders formed Smartmatic after the 2000 U.S. presidential election to resolve the issue of hanging chads — a bit of the ballot that isn’t punched out all the way — by replacing paper ballots with digital alternatives. The conspiracy contrived by Giuliani and Powell claimed that Dominion installed Smartmatic software on its voting machines across the country, and that Smartmatic maintains allegiances to Venezuela’s socialist leaders, including the late former President Hugo Chavez, according to the lawsuit.

Smartmatic’s attorneys said they have counted “dozens” of references to what they describe as the smear campaign on Fox News. That these claims were made repeatedly and echoed by the channel’s news staff is evidence that Fox News was actively plotting with Giuliani and Powell to disseminate the conspiracy, said Smartmatic’s attorney J. Erik Connolly.

The company maintains that its case is supported by its limited exposure to U.S. elections: Los Angeles County is its only current U.S. client. “That we were only used in one jurisdiction, and weren’t used in any closely contested states makes the disinformation campaign even more egregious and irresponsible,” said Connolly.

Smartmatic’s existing and potential clients around the world are getting cold feet because of the bogus claims, and in some cases have described Smartmatic as “toxic,” said Chief Executive Officer Antonio Mugica, who declined to offer examples.

Mugica says he’s had to explain the U.S. political crisis and Smartmatic’s role to all of his clients. Even still, he said, the company stands to lose $500 million in contracts and another $190 million in add-on services. The $2.7 billion Smartmatic is seeking is founded on estimates of harm to its “brand, reputation and enterprise value,” according to the complaint.

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