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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

Go deeper

Alabama trying to use COVID relief funds to expand prisons

Inside the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala., in 2018. Photo: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Alabama state lawmakers are trying to funnel up to $400 million of the state's American Rescue Plan funds to pay for a $1.3 billion plan to build and renovate prisons across the state, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Diverting dollars from the COVID-relief package, passed in March, is prompting criticism over misuse.

2 hours ago - World

Jake Sullivan discussed human rights and Yemen with Saudi crown prince

MBS in 2018. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed efforts to end the war in Yemen, the de-escalation of regional tensions with Iran, and Saudi Arabia's human rights record in their meeting on Monday, a senior U.S. official told Axios.

Why it matters: This was Sullivan's first trip to the Middle East since taking up his post in January, and he was the most senior visitor to the kingdom so far from the Biden administration, which has kept the crown prince at arm's length over his roles in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top Pentagon officials contradict Biden on Afghanistan advice

Photo: Carolone Brehman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Top military leaders confirmed in a Senate hearing Tuesday they recommended earlier this year that the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and that they believed withdrawing those forces would lead to the collapse of the Afghan military.

Why it matters: Biden denied last month that his top military advisers wanted troops to remain in Afghanistan, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "No one said that to me that I can recall."

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