Dominion, Inc. joins Smartmatic, another voting machine company whose voting machines were used in the election, in turning to the courts to clear their names and regain financial losses due to the false claims.
Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Fox News, seeking US$1.6 billion in damages from the cable news network. Following the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump and his allies, many in the media, repeated the false narrative that the voting machines had been rigged to give the election to President Joe Biden.
Dominion, Inc. joins Smartmatic, another voting machine company whose voting machines were used in the election, in turning to the courts to clear their names and regain financial losses due to the false claims. If the companies are successful in their lawsuits, it could affect how willing news networks are to share unfounded claims.
The Fox News/Dominion Voting Machine lawsuit
On Friday, March 26, Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Fox News Network, LLC. In the legal complaint filed in the state of Delaware, Dominion accuses the cable news network of “intentionally and falsely blaming Dominion for President Trump’s loss by rigging the election.” The suit seeks US$1.6 billion in damages from Fox News.
The lawsuit alleges that Fox News, having lost a sizable portion of its viewership after accurately reporting that Biden won the election, opted to push false claims about Dominion’s voting machines to “lure” viewers back to the channel, including then-President Trump. Trump had criticized the network via his Twitter account and urged his followers to turn to alternative news sources.
Saying Fox “recklessly disregarded the truth,” the heft of the lawsuit alleges Fox News knowingly pushed false information about Dominion, Inc., which hurt the company.
The lawsuit enumerates the “outlandish” claims of Fox News:
“(1) Dominion committed election fraud by rigging the 2020 Presidential Election;
(2) Dominion’s software and algorithms manipulated vote counts in the 2020 Presidential Election;
(3) Dominion is owned by a company founded in Venezuela to rig elections for the dictator Hugo Chávez; and
(4) Dominion paid kickbacks to government officials who used its machines in the 2020 Presidential Election.”
Dominion states the network aired these claims despite knowing they were false. As a result, the lawsuit alleges, Dominion, Inc. employees have been harassed, including receiving death threats, and the company’s business “has suffered enormous and irreparable economic harm.”
Due to the false claims, the lawsuit states, Dominion, Inc. has faced substantial financial losses, such as having to spend US$600,000 for extra security and losing a US$10 million contract.
The lawsuit specifically names multiple Fox News hosts who repeated these false claims, including Maria Bartiromo (host of “Mornings with Maria” and “Sunday Morning Futures”), Tucker Carlson (host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight”), Lou Dobbs (host of “Lou Dobbs Tonight”), Sean Hannity (host of “Hannity”) and Jeanine Pirro (host of “Justice w/ Judge Jeanine”).
The lawsuit also cites the repeated appearances of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and one-time Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, both of whom were main sources for the claims. Earlier this year, Dominion filed separate lawsuits against both Giuliani and Powell seeking US$1.3 billion in damages from each.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, Dominion, Inc. wrote to Fox News, asking for a retraction of the false accusations and insisting Fox “ensure that any stories about Dominion are thoroughly fact-checked and vetted by experienced editors.” As Fox News did not offer a retraction, Dominion filed suit.
Other defamation cases
Defamation cases against news networks are not unusual, though the size and implications of the Dominion lawsuit mean it will be closely watched by both legal analysts and media outlets.
Fox News is currently facing a separate defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting machine company. Smartmatic filed a US$2.7 billion lawsuit in February on similar grounds as Dominion, Inc. Fox News has asked the judge to dismiss that lawsuit, claiming it would limit their First Amendment right to free speech. Currently, the lawsuit has not been dismissed.
In 2020, rival news network, CNN, settled a defamation case for an undisclosed amount with Nick Sandmann, a Kentucky teen. Sandmann had been recorded in a confrontation with Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, during a protest in Washington, DC in January 2019. Sandmann sued CNN for US$275 million, claiming the network dishonestly accused him of racist behavior.
One American News Network (OAN), a right-wing news website, sued MSNBC host Rachel Maddow for defamation after Maddow claimed OAN was “paid Russian propaganda.” A judge dismissed that lawsuit, though, and ordered OAN’s parent company, Herring Networks, to pay Maddow US$250,000 in legal fees.
Fox News, the most watched cable news network in the United States, is financially robust enough to fight the Dominion lawsuit. However, smaller right-wing outlets, including OAN and Newsmax, which also aired unverified claims about Dominion and Smartmatic, are unlikely to have the resources or clout to fight similar lawsuits.
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