Voting technology company Smartmatic, falsely accused by Trump supporters of having helped rig last year’s US election, is suing Fox News, several of its high-profile anchors and two of the former president’s lawyers for defamation.
The lawsuit filed in New York state court on Thursday by Florida-based Smartmatic accuses the defendants of taking part in a “disinformation campaign” against it as Donald Trump fought unsuccessfully to overturn the presidential election results.
Fox News and three of its stars — Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro — are named as defendants, as well as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who helped litigate cases seeking to overturn the election result. Smartmatic said it is seeking over $2.7bn in damages.
Antonio Mugica, Smartmatic chief executive, said in a statement: “Fox is responsible for this disinformation campaign, which has damaged democracy worldwide and irreparably harmed Smartmatic and other stakeholders who contribute to modern elections.”
Erik Connolly, the company’s lawyer, said: “Fox News engaged in a conspiracy to spread disinformation about Smartmatic. They lied, and they did so knowingly and intentionally. Smartmatic seeks to hold them accountable for those lies.”
Fox News said the company was “committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion”.
“We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend against this meritless lawsuit in court,” it added.
Neither Mr Giuliani nor Ms Powell responded to a request for comment.
Smartmatic became a target for false claims in the weeks after November’s election, when allies of Mr Trump began accusing it of having helped “flip” votes illegally from the former president to Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Mr Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, and Ms Powell were among the most prominent proponents of those claims, frequently appearing on Fox to make unsubstantiated allegations against the company.
The company said its voting technology was only used in Los Angeles county during the US election in November. But many of Mr Trump’s allies claimed afterwards that its software was used much more widely, including in crucial swing states. They also claimed that the company’s software was used by its rival Dominion, which has also been the target of election conspiracy theories.
Dominion has separately sued both Mr Giuliani and Ms Powell for their claims about the company, and has also written warning letters to Fox News, Mr Dobbs and Ms Bartiromo, as well as conservative news channel Newsmax. Smartmatic said it has also sent demands for retractions to Newsmax and another rightwing news outlet, OANN.
There are some signs that the legal threats may already have be having an impact. Earlier this week, Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow and a prominent Trump supporter, appeared on Newsmax to repeat false claims about Dominion.
As he was doing so, he was interrupted by Bob Sellers, one of the channel’s anchors. Mr Sellers said: “Mike, you’re talking about machines that we at Newsmax have not been able to verify any of those kinds of allegations. We just want to let people know that there is nothing substantive we have seen there.”
When Mr Lindell continued to repeat his claims, Mr Sellers simply walked off screen.