Smartmatic returns to court in Fox News case for defamation
After scores of their once-secret communications in the Dominion litigation became public – from Rupert Murdoch’s testimonies to the private chats of their top hosts – Fox News returned to court Thursday to battle with another legal opponent.
Fox’s various business units have filed multi-billion dollar lawsuits against voting machine companies following the 2020 presidential election. In Delaware, Dominion Voting Systems is seeking $1.6 billion in damages, and in New York, Smartmatic is seeking $2.7 billion.
At a hearing in lower Manhattan on Thursday, Smartmatic’s attorney, Nicole Wrigley, complained that Fox News had fought her over disclosures, taking advantage of the Empire State’s sweeping laws protecting journalists.
“To be honest, we have to fight for everything,” Wrigley said.
Fox attorney K. Winn Allen of the law firm Kirkland & Ellis noted that the New York law provides a “mantle of protection for media organizations that is the strongest in the nation.”
Wrigley denies that New York’s shield law is as far-reaching as Fox claims.
“‘Hit-and-run’ journalism has no more protection under the First Amendment than speeding down a crowded sidewalk is permitted with a valid driver’s license,” she said, citing New York precedent Greenberg vs. CBS.
Dominion’s lawsuit has led to by far the most significant revelations of Fox’s coverage of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election. Smartmatic says the discovery was pretty close for them, dating back to the time of the first alleged airing: October 2020 and up to February 4, 2021.
Wrigley argued that what happened before and after this period may be relevant to her case.
For example, Smartmatic wants information about the establishment of Fox’s so-called “election integrity unit” in September 2020, Wrigley said. She also requested information months after the broadcasts at issue in the case following Lou Dobbs’ firing in early 2021.
“We’re in a big, high-profile case,” she noted.
When asked why that is, Wrigley answered her own question: “You have [Smartmatic] at the center of a massive conspiracy to steal this election from President Trump.” She noted that the theory is always wrong because Smartmatic only provided the voting machines in Los Angeles County, where President Joe Biden’s victory was never in doubt.
“We’re trying to hold Fox accountable for spreading these lies,” Wrigley said.
Manhattan Superior Court Justice David B. Cohen encouraged Wrigley to stick with the discovery controversy — and avoid a full-scale review of her allegations.
“Okay, attorney, I know the background,” Cohen interrupted. “We all know the background.”
Smartmatic wants Judge Cohen to override certain discovery limitations imposed by Judge Alan C. Marin, the hearing officer leading the pretrial dispute with Fox.
Fox attorney Devin S. Anderson has also appealed certain of Marin’s judgments. He wants the judge to allow the network to probe Smartmatic’s communications with the Justice Department, which is investigating the voting machine company over alleged conduct unrelated to the 2020 election.
As Semafor first reported in September 2022, the Justice Department has investigated whether Smartmatic was involved in bribery in the Philippines. Fox claims that the issue, while irrelevant to the 2020 election, could be relevant to Smartmatic’s multibillion-dollar damages lawsuit.
Since the business in the Philippines is “an important contributor to Smartmatic’s revenue,” Fox’s attorney argues that they deserve all the information the company has given the Justice Department to answer the question, “Is Smartmatic worth that much?” , as it claims?”
The Dominion case illustrates the stark difference between the relatively limited information Smartmatic obtained and the vast information repositories unearthed in Delaware.
Murdoch’s testimony — and that of other senior officials including director Paul Ryan, a former Republican congressman, and top attorney Viet Dinh, a former assistant attorney general under George W. Bush — was released in the case filed by Dominion in Delaware. Unsealed messages and testimony showed the men debunked former President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. Fox News President Jay Wallace unfavorably compared Dobbs’ coverage of the 2020 political conventions to North Korean propaganda, and Murdoch labeled Dobbs an “extremist.”
In a text message, Murdoch described Rudy Giuliani’s press conference announcing plans to attack the results with Sidney Powell as “really crazy stuff.” Fox broadcast the press conference in full, and Dominion says the network cracked down on journalists who fact-checked false claims about the election.
Last month, an intermediary appeals court in New York upheld a decision that sent this case for discovery — and revived certain claims against Giuliani and host Jeanine Pirro.
On February 15, 2023, a five-judge panel unanimously found that Smartmatic reasonably asserted that Fox News, Giuliani, Pirro, and Maria Bartiromo either knew the voting machines’ conspiracy theories were wrong — or had serious doubts about their accuracy — than they were aired . The court dismissed claims against Fox Corporation and allowed Smartmatic to retry claims against that company. Attorneys for Fox Corporation said they will try to have those claims re-examined.
Smartmatic says the network and those invited to the air effectively backed the claims despite knowing they were either dubious or nonsense.
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https://lawandcrime.com/2020-election/smartmatic-skewers-foxs-hit-and-run-journalism-in-court-after-secret-rupert-murdoch-messages-exposed/ Smartmatic returns to court in Fox News case for defamation