Although it sounds like the timetable for going to trial may be longer than what’s expected in a similar case from Dominion Voting Systems, a New York appeals court has broadly upheld a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from the election technology company Smartmatic over lies told about its supposed role in imaginary election fraud in 2020.
The case names plaintiffs including Fox News and Rudy Giuliani, the longtime ally to former President Trump who held a prominent role in pushing false claims of fraud after the 2020 presidential race. Fox was hoping for the case’s dismissal. The New York court also revived claims against Fox’s Jeanine Pirro. Throughout the legal challenges various corporate entities behind Fox have faced over the outlet’s part in spreading blatant lies about what took place during the 2020 presidential election, Fox has claimed it was simply acting in line with the protections for free speech provided by the First Amendment. An inherent idea with the network’s defense would seem to be that it wasn’t necessarily endorsing the claims. Rather, the channel was simply reporting on ostensibly newsworthy claims made by public figures, as the concept goes.
That line isn’t absolute, and Smartmatic could eventually prove actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth. Both concepts would seem to exclude any kind of accidental action, and there are established legal contours for the form of an actionably defamatory act by some interest that could be met here. Giuliani and fellow Trump ally Sidney Powell both appeared on Fox in the wake of the 2020 election, pushing conspiratorial nonsense. Powell was among those explicitly grouping Smartmatic and Dominion as somehow affiliated, although the two companies had no such relationship, but she also claimed in direct terms that those involved were fraudulently adjusting vote totals. She said certain individuals, including a businessman who apparently actually held no role with either company at all, “designed and developed the Smartmatic and Dominion programs and machines that include a controller module that allows people to log in and manipulate the vote even as it’s happening.” That’s all bunk.
The trial in the case from Dominion against Fox is set for April. Making the company’s role in pro-Trump conspiracy theories even more odd, Smartmatic wasn’t even used in the overwhelming majority of the U.S. in the 2020 elections. The New York appeals judges unanimously found that Smartmatic’s “complaint alleges in detailed fashion that in their coverage and commentary, Fox News, Dobbs, and Bartiromo effectively endorsed and participated in the statements with reckless disregard for, or serious doubts about” the availability of real-world evidence, of which there was none.