Judge Lets Smartmatic’s $2.7 Billion Defamation Suit Against Fox Proceed

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2019/12/20: FOX logo outside the News Corporation Building at 1211 Sixth Avenue, Fox News Headquarters in NYC. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
FOX logo outside the News Corporation Building at 1211 Sixth Avenue, Fox News Headquarters in NYC. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

New York Supreme Court Judge David Cohen on Tuesday shot down Fox News and several Fox anchors’ efforts to quash voting tech company Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against them.

Cohen denied Fox, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo and fellow Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs’ motion to dismiss Smartmatic’s suit, which accuses all three of defaming the tech firm by peddling bogus conspiracy theories claiming Smartmatic had rigged the 2020 election against Donald Trump.

The judge rejected Fox’s argument that the outlet itself never specifically pushed those conspiracy theories, writing in his order that Fox still provided a bullhorn for Trump’s goons to spread them.

“Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs’ claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth,” Cohen wrote in a 61-page order denying Fox’s motion for dismissal.

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Cohen also rejected Bartiromo and Dobb’s separate motions for dismissal, saying that Smartmatic had “adequately pleaded a substantial basis” for its claims that the Fox hosts had “acted with reckless disregard for the truth.”

Smartmatic’s lawsuit also targeted Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, plus lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who repeatedly aired their bogus claims while appearing as guests on the network.

However, Cohen allowed Pirro and Powell to remove themselves from the lawsuit in his order on Tuesday. Pirro never accused Smartmatic specifically of stealing votes in the election, and Powell, a Texas resident, is outside of the New York Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, the judge wrote.

Cohen also dismissed some of Smartmatic’s claims against Giuliani. However, the judge gave the software company permission to try again.

Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica applauded Cohen’s decision in a press release on Wednesday.

“FOX’s reckless disregard for truth has caused debilitating harm to our ability to conduct our business globally as well as in the United States,” said Mugica. “We look forward to our day in court.”

Meanwhile, Fox pledged to fight the order.

“While we are gratified that Judge Cohen dismissed Smartmatic’s claims against Jeanine Pirro at this early stage, we still plan to appeal the ruling immediately,” a spokesperson for the network said in a statement, adding that the lawsuit was a “full-blown assault on the First Amendment which stands in stark contrast to the highest tradition of American journalism.”

Cohen’s ruling deals Fox yet another blow in its post-election efforts to fend off the legal consequences of amplifying Trump and his allies’ lies about voter fraud: A Delaware judge allowed Dominion Voting Systems, another election tech company at the center of MAGA conspiracy theories, to move forward with its $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox in December.

Read Cohen’s order below:

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