Feb 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Fox News moves to dismiss Smartmatic lawsuit

Fox News headquarters  May 29, 2019 in New York City.

The Fox News headquarters in New York City. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fox News on Monday filed a motion to dismiss a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against the network and some of its top hosts from voting company Smartmatic, claiming the suit seeks to "stifle debate and chill vital First Amendment activities."

Why it matters: The bulk of the filing leans on the notion that Fox's coverage is protected by the First Amendment.

Details: "This suit strikes at the heart of the First Amendment," the lawsuit states. "Smartmatic’s theory is fundamentally incompatible with the reality of the modern news network and deeply rooted principles of free speech law."

  • The lawsuit cites various legal proceedings that Fox argues establish a precedent that the speech, protected by the First Amendment, should be uninhibited and open and that speech concerning government affairs is very much protected by the First Amendement, as is freedom of the press.
  • Kirkland & Ellis Partner Paul Clement filed the motion on behalf of Fox News Media.

The big picture: Smartmatic is the second voting company to file a defamation lawsuit against election defamation. Dominion Voting Systems, which sent a warning to Fox last month and filed two $1.3 billion defamation lawsuits against pro-Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

  • As Axios has previously noted, defamation lawsuits have so far proven somewhat effective in curbing the spread of disinformation about voter fraud on cable TV — although political disinformation about COVID-19 and the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack is still prevalent on some conservative networks, particularly in primetime.

Of note: Fox News has cancelled its business network's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" after Smartmatic filed the lawsuit against the network, naming Dobbs and network hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro in the suit.

Go deeper: Smartmatic files lawsuit against Fox, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell

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