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By Kirstin Kennedy, Staff Writer
A small election software company has filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, alleging that several of the network’s commentators defamed the company by wrongfully accusing if of failing to properly count votes in the 2020 presidential election. The suit, filed by Smartmatic, a software company headquartered in London, England, was brought in February 2021 against Fox Corporation and anchors Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro.
Attorney J. Erik Connolly, who, along with Attorney Nicole Wrigley, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Smartmatic, began the civil complaint by stating: “The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for president and vice president of the United States. The election was not stolen, rigged, or fixed. These are facts. They are demonstrable and irrefutable.”
A New York state court will hear the case, which accused the network and its hosts of perpetuating theories that the software used by the company had been intentionally programed to assist in the election loss of former President Donald Trump to then-candidate Joe Biden. These accusations allegedly came in the form of several unsupported conspiracy theories. For example, Smartmatic, in its suit, accused the named defendants of attempting to connect the company, whose founder and CEO is a native of Venezuela, to improper actions of the country’s former leader, Hugo Chavez. The suit also alleges that the defendants accused the company of outsourcing the votes cast in swing states to locations outside of the United States in order for them to be counted.
Additionally, the suit cites instances where the defendants allegedly connected Smartmatic to its competitor, Dominion, another election software system used throughout the United States. According to the lawsuit, several members of the Fox News staff broadcasted information that Smartmatic was owned by Dominion, which it is not.
In addition to Fox News and its commentators, the lawsuit also names Rudolph Giuliana and Sidney Powell, former attorneys for President Trump, for similar statements they made while appearing on the network in the aftermath of the election. Notably, the company’s software was used in the 2020 election only by Los Angeles County – no other county throughout the country utilized its services. In a televised conversation on Fox News with Mr. Giuliana, anchor Ms. Bartiromo asked as to whether the Smartmatic software had a “back door” which permitted third-parties to view votes in “real time,” to which Mr. Giuliana responded: “I can prove that they did it in Michigan.” At another point, Mr. Giuliana accused the company of similar behavior in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Smartmatic CEO, Antonio Mugica, said that the company did not provide services to any of those locations, nor any swing state, during the 2020 election; the company was only employed to provide election service to Los Angeles County, California.
When it comes to large defamation cases, Attorneys Connolly and Wrigley have notable experience. In the past, the pair has filed suit against Disney and ABC, willing a settlement of a reported $177 million of allegedly improper reporting regarding beef processing, commonly known as the “pink slime” case. In this matter, Smartmatic has alleged that the claims made on Fox News “jeopardized” its business by causing damage it its reputation, making “it difficult for the company to get new business in the United States.” In response, a Fox News representative told the New York Times that the company was “proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court.”
Attorney Connolly distinguished the lawsuit from other defamation cases which attack journalism and freedom of the press in stating: “This is a case where we are alleging a story was simply fabricated. And when you fabricate a story and it causes this great damage, then you should be worried about that. But I don’t think that’s something that most responsible journalists do.”