A New York judge on Wednesday said a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit brought by voting technology company Smartmatic against Fox News can proceed, but tossed claims against three individuals.
New York Supreme Court Justice David Cohen ruled against the Fox News’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit in which Smartmatic accused the network and multiple on-air hosts and guests of a disinformation campaign.
Smartmatic filed the lawsuit in February 2021, saying the network, disappointed that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election, “saw an opportunity to capitalize on President [Donald] Trump’s popularity by inventing a story.”
Smartmatic provided election technology and software in Los Angeles County, Calif., during the election, but said the defendants falsely reported that the technology was used in multiple states with close election outcomes.
Smartmatic also accused the defendants of inventing a fake narrative that the company was run by corrupt, socialist dictators in Venezuela and that it stole the election from Trump.
Smartmatic is incorporated in Delaware, with U.S. operations based in Florida.
“Defendants decided to tell people that the election was stolen from President Trump and Vice President Pence,” the suit read. “They needed a villain. They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.”
Smartmatic said the narrative presented by Fox News, and its hosts and guests “decimated its future business prospects.”
Cohen agreed that Fox News “turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbably that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth.”
“At this nascent stage of the litigation, this court finds that plaintiffs have pleaded facts sufficient to allow a jury to infer that Fox News acted with actual malice,” his ruling said.
Cohen also declined to dismiss claims against Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo and former host Lou Dobbs, whose Fox Business show Lou Dobbs Tonight was canceled one day after Smartmatic filed its lawsuit.
Cohen did dismiss claims against Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who appeared as a guest on Fox News; Fox News host Jeanine Pirro; and Trump attorney and network guest Sidney Powell.
Fox News issued a statement to UPI welcoming the ruling in part, but promising to appeal plans to go to trial.
“While we are gratified that Judge Cohen dismissed Smartmatic’s claims against Jeanine Pirro at this early stage, we still plan to appeal the ruling immediately,” the statement read. “We will also continue to litigate these baseless claims by filing a counterclaim for fees and costs under New York’s anti-SLAPP [strategic lawsuit against public participation] statute to prevent the full-blown assault on the First Amendment which stands in stark contrast to the highest tradition of American journalism.”
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