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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.

Go deeper

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Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

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Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.