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Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit on Friday seeking $1.6 billion in damages against Fox News, arguing that the network knowingly spread misinformation about the company's role in nonexistent voter fraud.

Why it matters: This is the first time Dominion has sued a media company in its efforts to collect billions in damages from pro-Trump figures who have pushed baseless conspiracy theories about its voting machines.

  • Dominion has previously sued Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, and the pro-Trump MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. All have appeared as guests on Fox News.
  • Smartmatic, another voting company baselessly accused of taking part in an international communist plot to rig the election for Joe Biden, filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, some of the network's top hosts, Giuliani, and Powell in February.

Between the lines: Powell moved to dismiss Dominion's lawsuit against her earlier this week, arguing that "no reasonable person" would conclude that her claims about an election-rigging scheme "were truly statements of fact."

  • Fox also moved to dismiss the lawsuit by Smartmatic in February, claiming the suit seeks to "stifle debate and chill vital First Amendment activities."

Details: Dominion argues that Fox News "set out to lure viewers back — including President Trump himself — by intentionally and falsely blaming Dominion for President Trump’s loss by rigging the election."

  • "Fox, one of the most powerful media companies in the United States, gave life to a manufactured storyline about election fraud that cast a then-little-known voting machine company called Dominion as the villain," the lawsuit reads.
  • "[E]ven after Fox was put on specific written notice of the facts, it stuck to the inherently improbable and demonstrably false preconceived narrative and continued broadcasting the lies of facially unreliable sources — which were embraced by Fox’s own on-air personalities — because the lies were good for Fox’s business."
  • "These lies transformed Dominion into a household name. As a result of Fox’s orchestrated defamatory campaign, Dominion’s employees, from its software engineers to its founder and Chief Executive Officer, have been repeatedly harassed. Some have even received death threats. And of course, Dominion’s business has suffered enormous and irreparable economic harm."

The other side: "Fox News Media is proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism, and will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court," Fox said in an emailed statement.

The big picture: Defamation lawsuits have so far proven somewhat effective in curbing the spread of disinformation about voter fraud on cable TV, although political disinformation about the coronavirus and the Capitol attack on Jan. 6 is still prevalent on some conservative networks, particularly in primetime, as Axios reported in February.

The bottom line: "The truth matters. Lies have consequences," Dominion's complaint says. There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. The Department of Homeland Security called the election "the most secure in American history."

Read the full lawsuit.

Go deeper

Several states declare emergency over Colonial Pipeline shutdown

A sign warns consumers on the avaliability of gasoline at a RaceTrac gas station in Smyrna, Georgia, on May 11. The average national price of gasoline has risen to $2.985 a gallon, Bloomberg notes. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Reports of fuel shortages across the U.S. emerged on Tuesday as the national average for gasoline prices soared to its highest level since 2014 amid a key fuel pipeline shut down, per Bloomberg.

What's happening: Operator Colonial Pipeline aims to have service restored by the week's end following last Friday's ransomware attack that shut down some 5,500 miles of pipeline from Texas to New Jersey. The governors of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency Tuesday due to shortage concerns.

Reports: More than 100 Republicans threaten to form 3rd party over Trump

Former President Trump addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 100 Republicans will sign a letter Thursday threatening to create a third party if the GOP doesn't "break" with former President Trump, Reuters first reported.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Trump's grip on the GOP has gotten stronger since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Republican Party's "allegiance to Trump" as he continues to make false claims about his 2020 election loss has "dismayed" the group, according to Reuters.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Dozens dead as Israel and Hamas intensify aerial bombardments

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11. Photo: Mahmud Hams / AFP) (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

At least 35 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed as fighting between Israel's military and Hamas entered a third day, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 come after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.