Fox News To Pursue Claims That Voting Firm’s Defamation Suit Is Anti-Free Speech

The corporate logo of Smartmatic is seen at its offices in Caracas
The corporate logo of Smartmatic is seen at its offices in Caracas, Venezuela Aug. 2, 2017. (Reuters/Christian Veron)

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge refused this week to toss out Fox News’ claims that voting technology company Smartmatic is suing the network to suppress free speech. The ruling means that both Smartmatic’s multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuit and the network’s counterclaims can continue toward an eventual trial.

Smartmatic says Fox News spread ruinous lies that the voting company helped rig the 2020 election against then-U.S. President Donald Trump. The network denies the allegations and is countersuing under a New York law against launching baseless litigation to squelch reporting or criticism on public issues — known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPP, in legal parlance.

Smartmatic’s nearly 3-year-old suit is separate from, but similar to, the Dominion Voting Systems case that Fox settled for $787 million last year. Fox didn’t apologize but acknowledged that the court in that case had found “certain claims about Dominion to be false.”

Both sides in the Smartmatic case have tried unsuccessfully to get the other’s claims tossed out. Trial and appellate courts already gave Smartmatic the green light to continue. On Wednesday, trial Judge David B. Cohen said Fox News’ counterclaims also could go ahead.

Fox’s argument — essentially, that Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion claim is so inflated that it could only be meant to silence the network — “has not yet been adjudicated in any court,” Cohen wrote in his decision, filed Tuesday.

The Associated Press sent email messages seeking comment to the network and to Smartmatic’s attorneys.

Florida-based Smartmatic says that in the 2020 presidential election, its technology and software were used only in California’s Los Angeles County. The Democratic bastion — not seen as an election battleground — went for the Democratic nominee, current President Joe Biden.

But in Fox News appearances after Election Day 2020, Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell portrayed Smartmatic as part of a broad scheme to steal the vote from the Republican incumbent. Giuliani asserted that the company had been “formed in order to fix elections.” Powell called it a “huge criminal conspiracy,” and the two claimed that proof would be forthcoming.