A New York state appellate court ruled on Tuesday that a lawsuit against Fox News brought by voting systems company Smartmatic USA can proceed, rejecting calls from the cable network for the case to be dismissed.
Smartmatic is seeking $2.7 billion in damages from Fox News, its hosts and guests who alleged or insinuated the company had engaged in election fraud in order to help President Joe Biden win the 2020 presidential election against former President Donald Trump. The news station regularly featured guests with questionable claims regarding the integrity of the election, with hosts also parroting those allegations as, at the very least, meriting consideration.
Allegations of election fraud affecting the outcome of that race, made by numerous allies of Trump and by Trump himself, have never been proven true, with most claims having been debunked outright, including by a research group hired by the Trump campaign.
In seeking a dismissal of the suit, Fox News tried to argue that it should be protected by the First Amendment journalism protections established in the Constitution, and that it was duty-bound to report on claims of fraud, even if they were false.
The five-judge panel in the Appellate Division Court in Manhattan unanimously ruled against those assertions, noting that the news organization, its anchors and guests “effectively endorsed and participated in (defamation) with reckless disregard for, or serious doubts about” whether Smartmatic engaged in fraud that affected the outcome of the election.
Indeed, as hosts and guests repeatedly claimed Smartmatic affected the election outcome throughout the U.S., the company noted within the lawsuit that its machines were only used in Los Angeles County, California. Claims of machines engaging in “vote-switching” were also meritless, the court found.
In addition to Fox News itself, the lawsuit names as defendants host Maria Bartiromo and former host Lou Dobbs. The state appellate court also ruled that previous lower court rulings removing other individuals that Smartmatic sought to include in the lawsuit — including former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and host Jeanine Pirro — were improperly made, and reinstated them into the lawsuit. The court removed Fox News’s parent company, Fox Corp from the lawsuit.
Giuliani, who spouted errant and misleading claims of election fraud in any and every forum he was allowed to participate in after Trump’s loss, was on the receiving end of a different judge’s ire in a separate ruling involving the lawsuit last year. The former mayor of New York “acted with actual malice” in disseminating false fraud claims against Smartmatic, that judge said in March, adding that Fox News and its hosts had also “turned a blind eye” to “outrageous claims” anchors and guests were making about the company, which were “so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth.”
While Giuliani and others were happy to push false claims of election fraud in public settings, in court, however, while under oath, they rarely echoed those same fraud allegations, stating instead that alleged discrepancies in voting behaviors warranted the complete overturning of the results in numerous states, actions that would have resulted in Trump remaining in office, if they had been accepted.
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