A $2.7 Billion Defamation Lawsuit Says Fox Hosts Recklessly Implicated Smartmatic in a Conspiracy To Steal the Election
The day after Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation suit against Fox News last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that Fox Business had canceled its long-running show hosted by Lou Dobbs, a conspicuous promoter of the claim that the voting technology company helped President Joe Biden steal the election. The Times says the cancellation of Lou Dobbs Tonight was in the works before the lawsuit was filed. The decision nevertheless puts some more distance between Fox and the wild conspiracy theory that motivated last month’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Fox News reporters were skeptical of former President Donald Trump’s election-fraud claims from the beginning. But several Fox hosts, including Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro—all of whom are named as defendants in Smartmatic’s lawsuit—credulously amplified his complaints, repeatedly lending credibility to conspiracy mongers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani (who are also named as defendants), whom they presented as serious lawyers with plausible claims.
Until late November, Powell was working with the Trump campaign; Giuliani continues to represent Trump. Since they were apparently speaking on the president’s behalf, their claims, however outlandish, were clearly newsworthy. But Smartmatic’s 285-page complaint argues that Dobbs, Bartiromo, and Pirro went beyond covering these allegations by endorsing them while ignoring countervailing evidence.
Since Smartmatic’s participation in the 2020 election was limited to a contract with Los Angeles County, the idea that it had helped deliver a phony victory was wildly implausible on its face. But Powell and Giuliani spun a tale that linked Smartmatic to the deceased Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, saying the company had helped him stay in power by supplying fraud-facilitating voting software. They conflated Smartmatic with Dominion Voting Systems, which had a much bigger role in last year’s elections. Powell and Giuliani falsely claimed that the two companies were essentially the same and that Dominion helped Democrats cheat with a version of the software that Chavez had commissioned, which supposedly switched hundreds of thousands (or possibly millions) of Trump votes to Biden votes in battleground states.
It was clear early on that the story peddled by Powell and Giuliani had no basis in reality. Nine days after the election, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, joined a statement saying “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Around the same time, 59 leading computer scientists and election security experts published an open letter that offered a similar judgment. “To our collective knowledge, no credible evidence has been put forth that supports a conclusion that the 2020 election outcome in any state has been altered through technical compromise,” they said, calling such claims “unsubstantiated” or “technically incoherent.”
State audits and recounts confirmed that Dominion machines, which supposedly were running Smartmatic’s allegedly tricky software, had accurately tabulated the results. By late November, Attorney General William Barr was saying that “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” Barr specifically rejected the allegations of machine-based fraud, saying “we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.” Privately, Barr reportedly told Trump such claims were “bullshit.”
What were Dobbs et al. doing in the meantime? On November 12, the same day CISA said there was “no evidence” that voting machines had been compromised, Dobbs invited Giuliani to expound on his allegations. Dobbs not only was completely unskeptical; he reinforced Giuliani’s story by falsely claiming that Smartmatic and Dominion had tried to avoid detection by storing voting data on servers in other countries. “As you well know now,” he said, “they have no ability to audit meaningfully the votes that are cast because the servers are somewhere else and are considered proprietary and they won’t touch them. It won’t permit them being touched.”
At the end of the interview, Dobbs endorsed Giuliani’s claims: “Rudy, we’re glad you’re on the case and pursuing what is the truth and straightening out what is a very complicated and difficult story. And by the way, it’s not only difficult; it has the feeling of a cover-up in certain places, you know, putting the servers in foreign countries, private companies
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