Three Fox News hosts — Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro — are seeking the dismissal of claims against them and their employer as part of a $2.7 billion libel lawsuit brought by the voting technology company Smartmatic.
Bartiromo, Dobbs and Pirro, as well as Donald Trump lawyers Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell, were sued this month for the eye-popping amount by Smartmatic, which accused them of conspiring to spread false claims that the company was involved in an effort to steal the presidential election from Trump.
In its motions, lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis, which is also defending Fox, argue Bartiromo, Dobbs and Pirro were doing their job in covering the biggest story of the day: unprecedented allegations by the president that the integrity of the electoral process was marred by fraud.
Smartmatic in its 285-page complaint filed Feb. 4 in state court in New York had cited at least 13 reports on Fox News in which guests or personalities falsely stated or implied that the company had somehow helped steal the election through easily tampered technology or in cahoots with Venezuela’s socialist government.
The complaint alleged that the “disinformation campaign” continued even after then-Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice could find no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“Smartmatic is confident in its case and looks forward to briefing these issues for the Court,” J. Erik Connolly, attorney for Smartmatic, wrote Friday in a statement.
The lawsuit is being closely watched as the rise of far-right voices on social media and pro-Trump outlets like Newsmax and One America News challenge long-held assumptions about the limits of free speech.
The filings by the Fox personalities note instances in which they questioned Powell and Giuliani for evidence to back their claims, as well as Smartmatic’s own denial of the charges. It also argues that Dobbs’ statements appearing to validate the claims of his guests were constitutionally protected opinions, not statements of fact.
“The First Amendment protects the press when it informs the public about judicial proceedings regardless of the accuracy of the underlying allegations,” according to the motion filed on behalf of Dobbs.
On Dec. 18, all three hosts aired a segment with an expert debunking some of the claims that had been made on its networks against Smartmatic and another voting technology company, Dominion.
The Fox Business Network dropped Dobbs’ show Feb. 5, a day after the lawsuit was filed. The network said the move was part of a planned programming shift and not related to the lawsuit.
Bartiromo in her motion suggests an alternate motive for what she calls Smartmatic’s “headline-seeking” lawsuit: an attempt by the company to fill its coffers after reporting losses of $17 million on $144 million in revenue in 2019.
“This complaint is not just meritless; it is a legal shakedown designed to chill speech and punish reporting on issues that cut to the heart of our democracy,” her lawyers argue.
Roy Gutterman, a media law professor at Syracuse University, said Fox in its motion made reasonable arguments about First Amendment rights and its duty to fuel public discourse on important political issues.
“Whether the broadcaster is liable for providing a forum for speakers and what responsibility they have for dealing with false factual statements will be central to the court’s decision,” he said.
Still, he said, if Fox succeeds in persuading the court to dismiss the case, the individual guests — Giuliani and Powell — could still be liable for potentially false and damaging statements.
Smartmatic’s participation in the U.S. election was restricted to a single district, Los Angeles County, which votes heavily Democratic.
That limited role notwithstanding, the company and its technology were widely and baselessly blamed by Trump supporters for somehow tilting the race in favour of Joe Biden. The effects of the negative publicity were swift and included death threats against an executive’s 14-year-old son, the loss of business and an enduring stain on its reputation, Smartmatic claims.
Like many conspiracy theories, the alleged campaign against Smartmatic was built on a grain of truth. The company’s founder and CEO is Venezuelan, and Smartmatic’s initial success is partly attributable to major contracts from Hugo Chávez’s government, an early devotee of electronic voting.
Dobbs, in his motion to join the Fox request for dismissal, points out that he first covered Smartmatic a decade earlier, in 2006, when employed by CNN. At the time the company was facing scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers concerned about its purchase of an American competitor so shortly after it had helped organize elections in Venezuela that were marred by allegations of fraud.
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I certainly hope they had other jobs lined up before speaking the truth. Tell a lie to a conservative and they get mad, tell the truth to a democrat and they get mad (and even).
Tell the Truth to a Democrat and they get a lawyer and a Republican to speak on their behalf!
EVEN if they get a conservative judge i fear these suits will irrepabily do harm to Pirro, and the rest..
Let this go to trail so we can all hear the truth. And much like Trump’s impeachment trial, watch this blow up in the Dems face.
What you can say to a sycophantic leftist news source, is quite different from what can be said in a court of law.
I say let the suit advance… So in the discovery phase the fraudulent voting hard and soft wear machines will …ALL… have to be forensically examined and prove the fraud… what do you bet if Pirro, Bartiromo and Dobbs except the court challenge the scum lawyers from “Scammatic” drag out the discovery… then at the last second…drop the suit?
YOU can bet your last dollar, the judge won’t LET That evidence be heard… JUST like they voted 54 to 0, to hear any evidence of the fraud…
This is a completely different scenario… it’s not someone bringing suit to scammatic… it’s scammatic bringing suit to a civilian citizen.. they’ll have to prove that their hard/soft wear was not fraudulent… in order for the suit to go forward in the discovery. I’d love to see this play out… the only problem is it will take years …. by that time the communist occupiers will have destroyed the entire world.
WHICH IS why the rinos in charge, won’t LET That evidence be heard… LET ALONE called on.
The suit will be dropped with the termination of all who questioned Dominion, all conservatives. They do NOT want Discovery, it would prove the accusations against Dominion, as more evidence is brought forth every day.
This is what is known as “Lawfare” and they are using it in an attempt to rid the airwaves of any descent, to silence all conservative voices and clearly, with the removal of Lou Dobbs, Fox is relenting.
The attorneys at Fox know full well that there is no case, it matters not, they seek only an excuse to get rid of any conservative! This will do nicely!