The Rupert Murdoch-owned news network has filed a motion to dismiss Smartmatic’s blockbuster libel action. Now and down the road, the defendant will attempt to pin ultimate responsibility for wild tales of election fraud on Donald Trump and his lawyers.
Will Fox News tell the American public that it’s high time for Donald Trump to shoulder the blame for his perpetual lying? That became a much more distinct possibility when Fox responded in court Monday to a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from voting technology company Smartmatic.
Filed on Feb. 4, Smartmatic’s 285-page complaint details what everyone who watched Rupert Murdoch-owned cable news networks in the weeks following Election Day pretty much saw firsthand: Without evidence, pundits like Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro encouraged guests like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell to run wild with conspiracy tales of election fraud. Smartmatic alleges being defamed through false statements that its technology was designed to steal the election.
Fox News’ defense strategy is now coming into focus.
Led by a team of attorneys at Kirkland Ellis, Fox News is now demanding dismissal with the argument that the First Amendment allows the news media to host a forum for interviewing Trump’s lawyers, even if these guests engineer outrageous allegations.
“Following the 2020 presidential election, one thing was undeniably newsworthy: whether then-President Trump’s unconventional efforts to challenge the results of the election would succeed,” states the dismissal motion (read in full here).
The motion adds, “When a sitting President and his surrogates claim an election was rigged, the public has a right to know what they are claiming, full stop. When a sitting President and his surrogates bring lawsuits challenging election results, the public has a right to know the substance of their claims and what evidence backs them up, full stop. In that context, interviewing lawyers advocating for the President is fully protected First Amendment activity, whether those lawyers can eventually substantiate their claims or not. Here, Fox provided precisely that kind of newsworthy information, allowing the President’s surrogates themselves to explain their allegations and evidence. If those surrogates fabricated evidence or told lies with actual malice, then a defamation action may lie against them, but not against the media that covered their allegations and allowed them to try to substantiate them.”