Smartmatic's lawsuit against Fox News, explained

Rupert Murdoch sitting on a gavel
Rupert Murdoch sitting on a gavel Illustrated/Getty Images

The Dominion lawsuit was just the beginning for Fox News. Yes, the conservative cable network settled Dominion's defamation claims for a whopping $787.5 billion, but Fox isn't done in the courtroom. Another voting technology company, Smartmatic, is also suing Fox for airing untrue claims about the firm's role in the 2020 election that Donald Trump falsely said had been stolen from him. 

ABC News reports that Fox still faces significant challenges. "Smartmatic remains committed to clearing its name, recouping the significant damage done to the company in more than 50 countries, and holding Fox accountable for undermining democracy," said an attorney for the company. And CNN says the Smartmatic suit "could be Fox's next big problem." Why is Smartmatic suing Fox News? Is another big settlement on the way? 

Why is Smartmatic suing Fox?

Smartmatic filed its nearly 300-page claim against Fox News in Feb. 2021, The Washington Post reports, with allegations that the network had aired more than 100 "false statements and implications" suggesting the company and its technology were complicit in efforts to steal the 2020 election from Trump. Among the figures named in the suit: Then-Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs — Dobbs was fired a month after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — as well as Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

Just one example of the claims aired on Fox: Vox reports that Giuliani went on Dobbs' show to claim that "Dominion and Smartmatic were companies 'formed in order to fix elections' by associates of the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez." The problem? It wasn't true. "They had no evidence that Smartmatic or Dominion had done anything wrong," Smartmatic says in its lawsuit. "Indeed, in the case of Smartmatic, they had no evidence that Smartmatic's election technology and software were even used in any of the states that had close outcomes in the 2020 U.S. election."

What does Fox say?

Despite the Dominion settlement, network officials say they're preparing to battle Smartmatic's lawsuit, CNBC reports. "We will be ready to defend this case surrounding extremely newsworthy events when it goes to trial, likely in 2025," a Fox spokesperson said. As was long the case in the Dominion lawsuit, the network says that freedom of the press is threatened by Smartmatic's claims. The election — and Trump's fraud claims — were newsworthy, after all. "Freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be protected," a spokesman tells The Guardian, and adds: "There is nothing more newsworthy than covering the president of the US and his lawyers making allegations."

How much does Smartmatic want from the lawsuit?

A lot! It is seeking $2.7 billion in damages from Fox News.

How is the lawsuit going so far?

Not great for Fox. The Washington Post reports that in February a New York judge rejected the network's bid to have the case dismissed.

The Dominion settlement may change the dynamic surrounding Smartmatic's lawsuit, and may increase the likelihood of another settlement. "I think it sets Fox up to pay their way out, as it seems unlikely they will want to take other cases to trial," a former federal prosecutor tells Axios. Even without going to trial, the Dominion case proved pretty embarrassing for the network. It may be worth it to Fox to pay Smartmatic to prevent even more ugly information from becoming public.

Are there other lawsuits involving the 2020 election?

A few. And it's not just Fox. The New York Times reports that Dominion and Smartmatic are also suing the right-wing TV network Newsmax, and Smartmatic is suing yet another conservative outlet, One America News. Other figures who advanced untrue claims of a stolen election — like Powell, Giuliani, Dobbs, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell also face civil legal claims.

What's next for the Smartmatic lawsuit?

Possibly a long process. Forbes points out that the discovery process in the case isn't expected to be complete until July 2024 — a trial won't happen before then — and notes that the company sounds like it is also willing to settle. "Smartmatic is determined to realize the goals as stated in the lawsuit — namely appropriate compensatory damages, punitive damages, and full and complete retraction of the disinformation on all of Fox's platforms," the company says on its website. If that's the case, the real question may be: How big a check is Fox willing to write this time?

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