NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News on Tuesday lost a bid to dismiss a multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuit accusing the network of spreading falsehoods that a polling technology company helped influence the then-U.S. president's 2020 election to "hijack" Donald Trump. . United States of America Donald Trump.
The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, the middle level of appeals, ruled against the network, asking the judges to dismiss the $2.7 billion defamation suit.
The Smartmatic company, which filed the lawsuit, said that it played a material and minor role in the election. He hailed the decision as a step toward holding Fox News accountable for publishing unsubstantiated and damaging claims by Trump's attorneys.
Fox News saw the case as an attempt to soften up the press and expressed confidence that the network would ultimately prevail.
Tuesday's ruling follows a lawsuit filed by Smartmatic against Fox News anchor Maria Bartiama, Jeanine Pirro, former host Lou Dobbs and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. The complaint against Trump's lawyer, Sidney Powell, was previously dismissed because he has no ties to New York, where the case was dismissed.
The five-judge ruling found "substantial allegations" that Giuliani and Powell defamed the company.
The five judges unanimously wrote that "the complaint makes clear that in the Fox News report and comments, Dobbs and Partiam endorsed the allegations and treated them with carelessness or serious doubt as to whether there was 'credible evidence.'" Smartmatic's claims against Pirro were dismissed by the trial court.
Federal and state election officials, full investigations in battleground states and Trump's own attorney general failed to uncover widespread fraud that could have changed the outcome of the 2020 election. Nor did they find any credible evidence that the vote was tainted. Trump's fraud claims have also been rejected by dozens of courts, including by judges he appointed.
The decision comes as Fox News faces a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, which is scheduled to go to trial in April. The network is also fighting a lawsuit against a Venezuelan businessman who it says has been wrongly accused of trying to tamper with the election.
Florida-based Smartmatic said its technology and software were used exclusively in the 2020 presidential election in Los Angeles County, California. As expected, the Democratic stronghold went to Democratic candidate and incumbent Joe Biden.
But Smartmatic says Fox News and the three broadcasters repeatedly allowed Trump's attorneys to falsely portray Smartmatic as a foreign company involved in a vast, multi-state operation to "displace" votes from the GOP to Biden.
In a series of speeches after Election Day, Giuliani said the campaign was "set up to rig the election." Powell called it a "mass criminal conspiracy" and said evidence would be presented.
After Smartmatic's lawyers demanded a retraction, Fox News aired an interview with an election technology expert who said there was no evidence the company's technology manipulated election results. He denied several of Giuliani's and Powell's claims.
JJ Eric Connolly, attorney for Smartmatic. The company argues that the network cannot claim free speech protections for its actions.
Fox News claims to inform the public about controversial but newsworthy statements by a major figure on an issue of public interest.
"There is nothing more newsworthy than the coverage of the President of the United States and his lawyers on charges of election fraud," said the network, saying that it is confident that he will be acquitted. Fox News called the compensation claim "outrageous" and "nothing more than an attempt to discourage our reporters from doing their jobs."
Giuliani's lawyer was reached for comment on the decision on Tuesday. They said Giuliani's statements were protected by the First Amendment and other laws and principles.
Associated Press writer Randall Chase writes from Dover, Delaware.