After Legal Threat, Fox Shows Aired Identical Fact Checks Of Election Conspiracy-Mongering

Judge Jeanine Pirro in February 2017. (MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
December 21, 2020 12:22 p.m.

After their parent company received a lengthy, angry letter from a voting machine manufacturer at the center of multiple election conspiracy theories, three separate programs on Fox News and Fox Business aired an identical interview fact-checking some of their hosts’ own claims this weekend, enraging viewers and surprising the fact-based community.

The company, Smartmatic, has been smeared repeatedly by Fox News and Fox Business hosts — not to mention the President’s lawyers and others in the right-wing fever swamps — as a key player in a plot to rob Trump of a second term.

Earlier this month, Smartmatic sent a lengthy legal notice to Fox News demanding a public retractions “on multiple occasions … and across the various platforms used by Fox News to disseminate the false and defamatory statements.”

“The prominence of the retraction, including being featured during prime time slots, must match the attention and audience targeted with the original defamatory publications,” a lawyer for Smartmatic demanded. 

It’s not yet clear whether Smartmatic is satisfied with the interview that aired several times over the weekend, which was with the election technology expert Eddie Perez, and performed by a nameless, faceless producer. 

But the segment itself was completely surreal.

In a tight three minutes, Perez debunked many of the same falsehoods that the three shows have perpetrated for months. In addition to Dobbs’ program, the interview aired on “Justice with Judge Jeanine” Saturday night and “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo” the following morning. 

“I have not seen any evidence that Smartmatic software was used to delete, change, alter — anything related to vote tabulation,” Perez said in response to the anonymous producer’s first question. And later: “I’m not aware of any direct connection between George Soros and Smartmatic.” 

That would be news to Dobbs’ viewers: As Smartmatic itself pointed out in its letter earlier this month to Fox News, Dobbs claimed in November that “the chairman of Smartmatic is very very close to none other than Mr. Soros,” and therefore that the company consisted of “left-wing radicals.” 

An attorney for Smartmatic, Erik Connolly, told TPM: “Smartmatic cannot comment on the recent broadcast by Fox News due to potential litigation.”

Perez, the global director of technology development and open standards at the Open Source Election Technology Institute (OSET), apparently didn’t know that he would be part of a legal cover-your-ass maneuver. 

“I was never informed that the content would be for Mr. Dobbs’ show,” he told CNN, adding: “I am not accustomed to seeing Lou Dobbs air very straightforward factual evidence.”

Fox viewers, struck with the truth, weren’t happy.

Not only were identical interviews aired on each of the three shows, their introductions were nearly identical as well. Dobbs said of Perez: “We asked him for his assessment of Smartmatic, and recent claims about the company.” 

A day later, Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe, guest-hosting for Jeanine Pirro, said “We asked him what he knew about Smartmatic and the claims some have made about that company.” Bartiromo, on Sunday morning, read the same exact line before airing the interview. 

Over the weekend, OSET’s social media team parried away Trump fans angry that their favorite shows had aired something contrary to the weeks of election misinformation to which viewers had grown accustomed. 

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