Fox News Media Seeks Dismissal of Smartmatic Suit

Fox News Channel
(Image credit: Fox News)

Fox News Media Tuesday (Feb. 9) filed a motion to dismiss the multi-billion-dollar lawsuit by voting company Smartmatic.

Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation and disparagement suit against Fox News Media owner Fox Corp., alleging Fox conducted a disinformation campaign against the election technology company. Fox has said the suit was without merit.

In its motion to dismiss, FNM said Smartmatic was trying to “stifle debate and chill vital First Amendment activities."

Smartmatic cited Fox news reports it said had repeated false claims that Smartmatic had "fixed and rigged" the 2020 election.

Fox suggested the suit was meritless because the network provided fair coverage, and commentary, on the issue. 

“If the First Amendment means anything, it means that Fox cannot be held liable for fairly reporting and commenting on competing allegations in a hotly contested and actively litigated election," FNM said. " We are proud of our election coverage which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism.”

Fox said Smartmatic has not identified any Fox statement that was actionably defamation, or alleged that Fox published the statements with "actual malice."

The network owner said that Smartmatic's assertion that it is subject to billions of dollars of liability for "covering all sides of a vigorous debate of profound national importance" has to be dismissed.

“When a sitting President and his surrogates claim that an election was rigged, the public has a right to know what they are claiming, full stop," Fox said. "When a sitting President and his surrogates bring lawsuits challenging the results of an election, the public has a right to know the substance of their claims and what evidence backs them up, full stop. In that context, interviewing the President’s lawyers is fully protected First Amendment activity, whether those lawyers can substantiate their claims or not."

That was just what Fox was doing by allowing the President's surrogates to explain their charges and evidence.

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The Smartmatic suit claims that Fox made over 100 false statements and implications to the effect that Smartmatic had stolen the 2020 election, when that was false. In addition, it said, it had only provided election services and technology to Los Angeles county (a state the President lost by over five million votes).

“The logic of Smartmatic’s position would be that the press must censor all discussion of even the most newsworthy of public controversies to escape imputation of actual malice," said Fox, "even in the context of statements by objectively newsworthy third parties during live television interviews,” which is a "blatant affront to the First Amendment."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.