Fox Settles Defamation Suit with Venezuelan Businessman Over Fraudulent Election Claims

Fox building
Workers clean up the burnt remains of a Christmas tree outside the News Corp. and Fox News building in New York City, New York, Dec. 8, 2021. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

By Susanna Granieri

A settlement was reached April 8 in a defamation lawsuit filed by Venezuelan businessman Majed Khalil against Fox News and Lou Dobbs after the TV host claimed Khalil participated in a scheme to rig the 2020 presidential election.

Khalil sued Dobbs and the network in December 2021 for multiple social media posts and a subsequent broadcast of “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” The posts and broadcast collectively alleged that Khalil was involved in “orchestrating this non-existent scheme to rig or fix the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election to favor Joe Biden,” according to the lawsuit.

Dobbs tweeted Dec. 10, 2020 that “The 2020 Election is a cyber Pearl Harbor: The leftwing establishment have aligned their forces to overthrow the United States government #MAGA #AmericaFirst #Dobbs.” A document attached to the tweet stated “People need to get familiar with four names,” and listed Khalil as one of “two political leaders.”

Khalil was described as “a Venezuelan of Lebanese origin, who is the right hand and business front man of Jorge Rodriguez. He has been the effective ‘COO’ of the election project, under Chavez and Maduro,” according to the tweet.

During a broadcast of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” following Dobbs’ tweet, an on-air graphic again included Khalil’s name as one of “Four Names You Need to Know According to Sidney Powell,” the lawsuit stated. In the graphic, Khalil was described as “Rodriguez Frontman.”

Powell, Donald Trump’s former attorney, was interviewed during the show and described Jorge Rodríguez, president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, as “one of the leaders of the whole election stealing project.” Powell added that the four people Dobbs identified, including Khalil, were part of an “illegal web of conduct … focused on rigging the election in this country,” the lawsuit stated.

Khalil’s characterization on Dobbs’ show mirrors claims made by other Fox hosts that the voting technology created by two separate companies was used to rig the 2020 presidential election.

One company, Smartmatic, filed a lawsuit in February 2021, claiming that the network published “over 100 false and misleading statements,” and aired interviews with former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Powell who claimed that the election technology company had links to Hugo Chávez, the former president of Venezuela who died in 2013.

Dominion, another voting technology company, sued Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corporation, in March 2021. The 141-page lawsuit highlighted four main “outlandish, defamatory, and far-fetching fictions” that the TV network helped spread, which included that “Dominion is owned by a company founded in Venezuela to rig elections for the dictator Hugo Chávez.”

According to the December 2021 lawsuit, the claims that Khalil was connected to the rigging of the election “served only to further embellish and bolster” Fox’s “false and oft repeated claims that Smartmatic and Dominion election technology was created at the direction of Hugo Chávez to change votes without being detected, a claim which had, at this point, been repeatedly debunked by multiple reliable sources.”

But Khalil, according to the lawsuit, “at no time had any business dealings or affiliation with either Dominion or Smartmatic.”

Attorneys from both parties signed a letter sent to U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which stated that they “have reached a confidential agreement to resolve this matter,” and that they plan to file “a joint stipulation of dismissal with prejudice” in the coming days.

“This matter has been resolved amicably by both sides. We have no further comment,” Fox News said in a statement to Reuters April 9.

This settlement agreement comes just days before the jury selection begins in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit, which is slated to begin April 17 in Delaware Superior Court.

April 8, 2023 — Letter Signaling Confidential Settlement

Oct. 31, 2022 — Fox News, Answer to Complaint/Counterclaim

Oct. 31, 2022 — Lou Dobbs, Answer to Complaint/Counterclaim

Sept. 26, 2022 — Motion to Dismiss denied

Dec. 2, 2021 — Majed Khalil Defamation Lawsuit