Judge Says Smartmatic Can Pursue Defamation Claims Against Giuliani, Fox News

A judge in New York has ruled that defamation claims against Rudy Giuliani and several Fox News personalities can move forward, noting that there appeared to be evidence that those individuals “acted with actual malice” against an elections technology company.

That business, Smartmatic, has filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News and several of its employees. The lawsuit also alleged that lawyers who previously worked for former President Donald Trump, including Giuliani, acted irresponsibly when they spread misinformation about the company’s practices during the 2020 presidential election.

Fox News personalities, as well as Trump’s former lawyers, wrongfully claimed that Smartmatic had rigged election machines to benefit now-President Joe Biden, and that the company had done so with the help of Venezuelan government officials — claims that have no basis in truth whatsoever.

Dozens of claims from Trump allies, alleging election fraud by Smartmatic and other actors, have been debunked and dismissed.

The lies pushed by these individuals, Smartmatic said in its lawsuit, resulted in “catastrophic damage” to the company’s reputation.

Justice David Cohen of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan issued his ruling on Tuesday. Although the lawsuit can move forward against Fox News and the two personalities who spread the falsehoods — Maria Bartiromo and former anchor Lou Dobbs — Cohen dismissed claims Smartmatic brought forward against Jeanine Pirro, ruling that she had issued a misstatement against the company on the air and that she hadn’t purposefully spread falsehoods. Cohen also dismissed claims against former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, noting that the court didn’t have jurisdiction to rule on her actions.

Cohen also dismissed some of the claims made against Giuliani in the lawsuit — but noted that his decision to do so was based on a technicality, and emphasized that Smartmatic could still press forward with defamation claims against him.

Giuliani “acted with actual malice insofar as he evinced a reckless disregard for the truth,” Cohen said, adding that Smartmatic could try to file another lawsuit against him if they wanted to.

Regarding the aspects of the lawsuit that were allowed to move forward, Cohen said there was a “substantial basis” to argue that Fox News had “turned a blind eye” to “outrageous claims” its anchors were making about Smartmatic, which were “so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth.”

Fox News said that it plans to appeal the judge’s findings.

Giuliani, in his role as Trump’s personal lawyer after the 2020 election, pushed several falsehoods and made numerous unsubstantiated claims about the integrity of the outcome of the race. In addition to many defamation claims being made against him, Giuliani has also been accused of taking part in the plot orchestrated by the Trump campaign to use fake electors to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes that took place on January 6, 2021.