A New York appellate court declined to toss out Smartmatic’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News and personalities including Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo.
The appeals court ruling — read it here — stems from Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion lawsuit against the network, contending that its personalties and guests amplified Donald Trump and his team’s unfounded claims that the election systems company rigged the 2020 presidential election.
The ruling was not on whether the network was liable for defamation, but that Smartmatic had adequately presented its claims to proceed to the next stage of litigation.
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A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately comment. The network has argued that it is protected by the First Amendment, as it was spotlighting a matter undoubtedly in the public interest, as a U.S. president, Donald Trump, was challenging the results of the election.
The appellate judges wrote that Smartmatic’s claims “allege that defendants Fox News, Dobbs, and
Bartiromo did not merely report the newsworthy fact that the President’s campaign lawyers were recklessly making statements conveying false information. Rather, the 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, whether the assertions or implications that plaintiffs had participated in election fraud had any basis in truth or were
supported by any reliable evidence.”
The judges also ordered that the claims against another Fox News personality, Jeanine Pirro, be reinstated, along with some of their claims against Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney who had been a guest on the network in the aftermath of the election. The lower court judge, David Cohen, dismissed those claims last year while otherwise letting much of the rest of Smartmatic’s case proceed.
The judges did say that claims against Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, should be dismissed, but will allow Smartmatic to refile that portion of their case.
The judges also wrote that the declined “to find that plaintiffs should be deemed limited purpose public figures required to allege facts that, if true, would ‘clearly and convincingly’ show defamation with actual malice.”
Shortly after Smartmatic filed its lawsuit in 2021, Fox dropped Dobbs from its Fox Business schedule. He is no longer with the network.
Another election systems company, Dominion Voting Systems, filed a defamation suit against Fox News and Fox Corp. in a Delaware court, and the trial is scheduled to begin in April.
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