While claims against attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell have become de rigueur, a new suit also blames Fox News for stoking conspiracy theories after the 2020 presidential election.
MANHATTAN (CN) — A voting company caught in a right-wing election conspiracy theory sued Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and other commentators Thursday for $2.7 billion, claiming they manufactured the bogus story to maintain a grip on angry Trump voters and the outgoing president.
The suit from Smartmatic is one of the largest defamation complaints ever filed and, at 285 pages, is the first to target Fox News and several of its prime-time commentators.
Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro are all named as defendants, lumped in now with former Trump lawyers Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who already face substantial defamation claims both from Dominion Voting Systems and Eric Coomer, a Dominion employee who says he faced death threats because of bogus claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
Smartmatic notes that it provided election technology and software for the 2020 U.S. election only in Los Angeles County, but that Powell, Giuliani and others painted the company as a nefarious, shadowy corporation with ties to socialist dictators that switched Trump votes to Biden.
“The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for president and vice president of the United States,” Smartmatic says in the complaint, which is filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Even though Fox News and its commentators “knew the election was not rigged or fixed,” according to the complaint, they “saw an opportunity to capitalize on President Trump’s popularity by inventing a story.”
After former federal prosecutor Powell and her cohort Lin Wood first aired the wild claims of an international plot involving China and Venezuela, the conspiracy theory was picked up by pro-Trump Fox firebrands like Dobbs and Bartiromo. At least 13 reports implied Smartmatic had helped Democrats steal the 2020 election, according to the complaint.
“They needed a villain. They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate,” the complaint alleges. “Without any true villain, defendants invented one.”
A Fox News spokeswoman who did not want her name used called the lawsuit meritless and boasted that “we are proud of our 2020 election coverage.”
“Fox News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion,” she emphasized.
While no exhibits have been filed yet, an appendix lists show transcripts and tweets from all the defendants. The list also includes an article by fellow Fox News host Tucker Carlson titled “Time for Sidney Powell to show us her evidence.” Carlson is not a named defendant in this or any other election-related suit.
The conspiracy rests on the theory that Dominion, Smartmatic and others used complex vote-tabulation software and algorithms to switch votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, or else delete Trump votes altogether.
Smartmatic says such allegations are flat-out false.
Having processed more than 5 billion secure votes since 2003, the company says it helped during the 2020 election only in Los Angeles County — which Biden carried by nearly 2 million votes and is traditionally seen as solidly Democratic.
Another claim is that Dominion is actually one of Smarmatic’s subsidiaries. During an interview on Dobbs’ show, Giuliani asserted that Smartmatic was formed by “three Venezuelans who were very close to [Hugo] Chavez” and that the company was “formed in order to fix elections.” Giuliani did not back up his claims on the show with evidence.
In another segment on Bartiromo’s “Sunday Morning Futures” program, an unnamed “senior U.S. intelligence official” was quoted as saying Smartmatic has a “back door” that allows third parties to see how many votes are needed in real time to switch an electoral outcome.
Smartmatic states that it has no business relationship with Dominion, either in terms of ownership or with software or hardware leasing.
Smartmatic also says there is no evidence proving the software “back door,” or that the company helped in fixing the 2020 election — despite claims by the defendants that it did so — and that it has not worked with any other voting-technology company during the 2020 election.
“Fox is responsible for this disinformation campaign, which has damaged democracy worldwide and irreparably harmed Smartmatic and other stakeholders who contribute to modern elections,” CEO Antonio Mugica said in a statement.
Fox News had previously faced litigation over stoking the fires of another conspiracy theory, that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich had been murdered — possibly by Hillary Clinton’s operatives — after leaking sensitive documents to WikiLeaks.
Smartmatic noted that it has sent retraction-demand letters to One American News Network and Newsmax, and it is still considering suing them, as well.
Dominion’s suit against Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who for a time was the face of the conspiracy theory, seeks $1.3 billion in damages. Currently no other defendants have been added to that case.
After the suit was announced, Giuliani retweeted talk show host Joe Pagliarulo, who wrote: “Nice move, Dominion — now you have to give @RudyGiuliani and anyone else you sue complete access to the actual machines used on 11/3 AND they have to be unwiped — still containing the results from that day. It’s called discovery. Not a smart move.”
Giuliani reportedly said on his radio show that “we’ll have a nice fight, a real fight” and that “I got a pretty good record in court.”
Given the multiple bar association complaints against Giuliani, however, and the comprehensive defeat of his election-fraud claims in court, Dominion appeared unconcerned. “We are looking forward to backing up our claims in court,” a spokesman said. “It’s easy to say things outside the courtroom, but we’ll stick to responding to whatever Mr. Giuliani chooses to file in court.”
Powell faces a similar suit by Dominion, which seeks $1 billion. The company had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Powell, asking her to publicly disavow her claims.
Similar to the Dominion lawsuits, Smartmatic cites the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill. The company claims the riot was a direct result of Giuliani’s and Powell’s conspiracy mongering.
“The story, of course, did more than just make Defendants’ money and jeopardize Smartmatic’s survival,” the complaint states. “The story undermined people’s belief in democracy. The story turned neighbor against neighbor. The story led a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.”
Powell did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment. Giuliani, Bartiromo, Dobbs and Pirro could not be immediately reached for comment.
Smartmatic is represented by Edward Wipper of Kishner Miller Himes.