Dec 21, 2020 - Economy

Right-wing shows air clarifications about "rigged" voting machines after legal threats

Shows on Newsmax, Fox Business and Fox News have begun airing corrections and clarifications to baseless allegations of election fraud involving Smartmatic and Dominion following legal threats by the two voting machine companies.

Why it matters: Defamation lawsuits could prove to be very costly, especially for fledgling networks like Newsmax and OAN that are trying to lure investors to be able to take on Fox News. Unsubstantiated claims about election-rigging have been heavily promoted by President Trump and his allies, including on these networks.

Details: Smartmatic has demanded retractions from all three networks, with the company writing in a legal notice last week that "these organizations could have easily discovered the falsity of the statements and implications made about Smartmatic by investigating their statements before publishing them to millions of viewers and readers."

  • Newsmax host John Tabacco, the latest to issue an on-air clarification, said on Monday's broadcast: "Since Election Day, various guests, attorneys and elected officials have appeared on Newsmax and offered opinions and claims about Smartmatic and Dominion Systems. ... Newsmax would like to clarify its news coverage and note that it has not reported as 'true' certain claims made about these companies."
  • Tabacco went on to say Newsmax has "no evidence" of multiple claims aired on its network, including that Dominion and Smartmatic have a business relationship, that Dominion uses Smartmatic software or vice versa, or that "Dominion or Smartmatic used software or reprogrammed software that manipulated votes in the 2020 election."

Between the lines: J. Erik Connolly is one of the lawyers involved in the Smartmatic legal threat, per the New York Times. Connolly famously won a defamation suit against ABC News in 2017 after the network referring to a beef producer's "lean finely textured beef" as "pink slime." The payout was at least $177 million.

The big picture: Networks like Fox and Newsmax rarely issue corrections or retractions unless hit with lawsuits or legal threats.

  • But even corrections don't always ward off settlements. Fox News in November settled with the family of the late Seth Rich, who Fox News baselessly alleged leaked thousands of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks, NPR reports.
  • Fox News had also baselessly suggested that Democrats could be linked to the murder of Rich in 2016, which has remained unsolved.
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