Fox News filed a counterclaim in Smartmatic’s defamation lawsuit over election conspiracy theories.
It says the demand for $2.7 billion in damages was “fanciful” because Smartmatic has been losing money.
The headline-grabbing number, Fox News argued, was meant to “chill” free speech.
Lawyers for Fox News argued that Smartmatic has been losing money for years and could not possibly justify its $2.7 billion demand in its defamation lawsuit over election conspiracy theories, according to a scathing court filing Thursday.
The new filing argues that the election technology company’s lawsuit, first filed in February 2021, was designed to “attract headlines and chill speech.”
“On top of the already-significant costs that Fox News has incurred and will continue to incur defending against Smartmatic’s novel legal theories, Fox News must also incur costs to debunk Smartmatic’s multibillion-dollar damages claim,” lawyers for Fox News wrote in the court filing, which was obtained by Insider. “And that is to say nothing of the chilling effect such a claim has on others who may not be able to defend themselves or face even a minimal risk of such staggering liability if their own speech comes under similar attack.”
The original lawsuit alleged that Fox News, its hosts Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo, its former host Lou Dobbs, and the election conspiracy theorists Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell all defamed Smartmatic through the cable giant’s coverage of the false conspiracy theory that Smartmatic manipulated the results of the 2020 election. Powell and Giuliani, lawyers who were both employed by then-President Donald Trump, went on Fox News shows and pushed those false theories. The Fox News hosts, according to Smartmatic, either didn’t do enough to push back against the claims or tried to advance them.
New York State Supreme Court Judge David B. Cohen tossed out portions of the lawsuit last week, ruling that Smartmatic hadn’t sufficiently proved some of its claims, but permitted the bulk of the case to stand. He also dismissed the claims against Powell on jurisdictional grounds. Fox News said it would appeal Cohen’s ruling upholding the remaining claims. A Smartmatic spokesperson previously told Insider it was deciding whether to appeal the ruling regarding Powell or activate a similar lawsuit against her in Washington, DC.
The new filing from Fox News brings a claim against Smartmatic under New York’s Anti-SLAPP law, which is meant to deter frivolous lawsuits. It argues that, in its segments regarding Smartmatic, Fox News was simply doing newsworthy reporting about claims by the president and his surrogates, including having its hosts offer their First Amendment-protected opinion.
“Such headline-grabbing claims are designed to serve as a warning to others to think twice before exercising their own free speech rights, lest the cost of doing so prove too heavy to bear,” Fox News’s lawyers wrote.
Fox News hired University of Chicago law professor Daniel R. Fischel to analyze Smartmatic’s finances. The report he produced found the company has steadily lost revenue in the past decade. According to the report, the claims of which have not been independently verified by Insider, Smartmatic has lost nearly $100 million in revenue in the years leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
Claims that Smartmatic stood to make $2.7 billion if not for Fox News, the court filing argued, were “fanciful” and the lawsuit meritless.
“As Smartmatic’s own public filings reflect, by the time the 2020 presidential election rolled around, it was no financial juggernaut on the cusp of earning billions in revenue,” Fox News lawyers wrote. “To the contrary, Smartmatic had been in the red each of the preceding four years, combining for nearly $100 million in losses, and its revenues had not exceeded $200 million since 2013.”
In a statement to Insider, Smartmatic attorney J. Erik Connolly said that, despite Fox News’s claims about the lawsuit, Cohen clearly found it had merit.
“It is ironic that Fox claims that Smartmatic’s lawsuit is without basis after the court found that the lawsuit had a substantial basis in law and fact,” Connolly said. “The decisions of courts across the country regarding these defamatory statements speak for themselves; and, the courts are saying something very different than Fox.”
Read the original article on Business Insider