Fox News signals it’s unlikely to settle Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion suit  | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Fox News signals it’s unlikely to settle Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion suit 

“Smartmatic is not Dominion, and as much as they’d hope, they’re never going to be Dominion,” a Fox News lawyer said Wednesday, steeling the company from defamation claims over its amplification of 2020 election lies.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Lawyers for Fox News on Wednesday sought to distinguish the looming, unresolved $2.7 billion defamation suit filed by the Smartmatic voting technology company from the similar Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit over 2020 election fraud claims that the news giant settled in April for an historic $787.5 million.

When Fox News announced it would settle Dominion’s civil defamation lawsuit over false election rigging claims in coverage of the 2020 presidential election just as the trial’s jury had been seated in a Delaware court, it was speculated that Smartmatic possessed a potential bargaining chip toward clearing its name and collecting even greater damages from its similar defamation claims in New York state civil court.

Just as Dominion argued in its own case, Smartmatic said in a lengthy civil complaint that Fox News hosts invited lawyers representing Donald Trump, such as Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, to spout conspiracy theories about the manipulation of votes by Dominion’s voting machines in favor of Biden, in a bid to recapture sinking cable news ratings.

“Smartmatic is not Dominion, and as much as they’d hope, they’re never going to be Dominion,” Fox News' attorney Michael Williams, of Kirkland & Ellis, told a state court judge in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, in reference to Smartmatic’s request for trial documents from the Dominion case.

Lawyers for Fox News Corporation also argued in support of its motion to dismiss Smartmatic’s amended defamation complaint because the voting technology company hadn't shown sufficient evidence of “affirmative participation” by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, in the disinformation campaign about Smartmatic.

Fox News’ lawyers say the evidence shows only the elder Murdoch and his son, executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation Lachlan Murdoch, communicating generally about coverage of the election, rather than explicitly directing the network to publish false statements about Smartmatic.

The Murdochs were “simply talking about the entire universe of election law coverage,” Fox News attorney Erin Murphy said Wednesday, arguing there is a “vast gulf” between Fox Corporation executives pivoting the election news coverage and defaming Smartmatic.

Smartmatic lawyer Erik Connolly argued in response that the top Murdochs “directed their news organization to publish this disinformation,” which he says was “consistent with a broad pattern and practice that they have had throughout their entire tenure.”

Connolly likened the father and son to “a mafia boss ordering one of his lieutenants, ‘Take out Johnny Two Bones.'”

“Unquestionably, we would all say the mafia boss participated in the hit when the hit happened,” he said. “The exact same thing happened here. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch ordered a hit.”

Smartmatic attorney Edward Wipper accused Fox News of intentionally dragging out discovery challenges in order to delay the case until a 2026 trial date.

“We need to move this along,” Wipper said Wednesday. “It’s the right thing to do in this case, because otherwise they’re going to use structure and process as a sword not a shield.”

Justice David Cohen did not immediately rule on the pending motions to dismiss.

In addition to Fox News, the suit names Giuliani and Powell as co-defendants for creating the false narrative about the election and spreading the disinformation through frivolous lawsuits.

Both Giuliani and Powell have since been named as co-defendants in the sprawling criminal RICO indictment brought by Georgia prosecutors over Donald Trump’s efforts to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.

Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who has been accused of dragging his feet on document production in the Smartmatic suit due to his inability to pay vendors, was sued in New York state court earlier this week by attorney Robert Costello over unpaid legal fees.

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