From the moment the 2020 presidential election was called in favor of Joe Biden, three prominent conservative cable companies, Fox News, One America News Network (OANN), and Newsmax have repeatedly questioned the accuracy of the results.
Two voting technology companies, Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, are taking legal steps against the three networks and a former Trump campaign lawyer over false claims that their products were used to manipulate the election.
On December 10th, Lily Fu Claffee, the general counsel for Smartmatic, sent Fox News Networks a letter demanding that the network retract the statements its reporters and guests had made about the company.
Among the false claims made by the networks’ hosts and guests, was a theory that a voting technology company called Smartmatic had been started by the late former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez; that Smartmatic had ties to Dominion, a company that sells electronic voting machines; and that the two companies rigged the U.S. election.
In the letter, Claffee said that the company was founded in Boca Raton, Florida, and that its technology–which “does not count, tabulate, or store votes”–was only used in Los Angeles, California during the election.
“Fox News used its anchors and on-air guests, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, to spread lies about a company that had absolutely nothing to do with the voting that took place in areas at the heart of the ‘conspiracies’ discussed following the 2020 U.S. election,” Claffee wrote, adding, “Smartmatic believes Fox News had (and has) no evidence or credible source to support any of the false and misleading statements it published in the Reports.”
Claffee’s letter appears to have convinced Fox News to be more careful about how it presents information about Smartmatic. On December 18th, Fox News anchor Lou Dobbs included a segment that corrected several of the accusations his guests had made about the company. The segment was also aired on the shows hosted by Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo.
According to The Washington Post, Smartmatic’s lawyer sent similar letters to OANN and Newsmax. On December 21, Newsmax issued a statement in response to the letter in which the network distanced itself from the comments made by its guests.
“There are several facts our viewers and readers should be aware. Newsmax has found no evidence either Dominion or Smartmatic owns the other, or has any business association with each other,” the statement reads. In it, Newsmax also says that they have “no evidence” that Dominion used Smartmatic’s software to manipulate votes in the 2020 election.
At press time, OANN has yet to respond to Smartmatic’s letter.
Dominion has also taken steps to combat claims that its machines were used to tweak the election in favor of Joe Biden. On December 16th, Dominion lawyers sent a letter to Sidney Powell, a former Trump campaign lawyer, threatening to sue her for defamation unless she retracts “her most serious false accusations” about the company, such as the fact that they “inject[ed] massive quantities of votes into the system” to “create the appearance of votes that weren’t really there.”
Powell, who was removed from Trump’s legal team in late November, has yet to respond to Dominion’s letter.
Neither Smartmatic nor Dominion, who have each hired top libel lawyers, have ruled out suing.
Floyd Abrams, one of the country’s most best-known defenders of freedom of speech and press, told The New York Times media critic Ben Smith that “[i]t is far too early to predict how the cases, if commenced, will end. But it is not too early to say that they would be highly dangerous to those sued.”