Mon. May 17th, 2021


In its frontal attack on Mr. Murdoch’s company, Smartmatic argues that Fox cast it as a villain in a fictitious narrative meant to help win back viewers from Newsmax and OANN. Those two networks saw ratings surges in the weeks after the election, thanks to their embrace of the fiction that Mr. Biden was not the rightful victor. The Smartmatic suit also argues that Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell sought to enrich themselves and improve their standing with Mr. Trump’s supporters by making claims that were damaging to the company.

After Smartmatic sent a letter to Fox requesting a retraction for what it called “false and misleading statements” about the company and threatening legal action, each of the shows led by the three Fox anchors aired a segment in which an election expert, Eddie Perez, debunked a number of false claims about Smartmatic. The prerecorded segment, broadcast in December, showed Mr. Perez responding to questions from an off-camera voice. In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Perez said that the finished product “almost looked like a deposition.”

Smartmatic’s complaint described not only the reputational and financial damage the company said it had suffered, but also the harm done to the United States by the claims promoted by Mr. Trump’s allies and the Murdoch-controlled networks he had long favored.

Fox Corporation, with about 9,000 employees, is run by Mr. Murdoch, 89, and his elder son, Lachlan, its chief executive. A penalty of $2.7 billion would be hefty. Fox Corporation made $3 billion in pretax profit on $12.3 billion in revenue from September 2019 to September of last year. The company is valued at about $17.8 billion.

Ms. Bartiromo, the host of shows on Fox Business and Fox News, conducted an interview with Mr. Trump on Nov. 29, his first lengthy TV interview after the election. Ms. Pirro, a onetime prosecutor whose “Justice with Judge Jeanine” is a staple of Fox New’s Saturday night lineup, has been friends with Mr. Trump for decades.

Don Herzog, who teaches First Amendment and defamation law at the University of Michigan, said that the suit’s main argument made sense. “You can’t just make false stuff up about people,” he said. He expressed doubt about the suit’s linking the false statements on Fox to the Capitol attack, however, saying the events of Jan. 6 had no bearing on whether the defendants had harmed Smartmatic.

The suit’s success would depend on a variety of factors, Mr. Herzog added, including whether Smartmatic can persuade a jury that the company did not have the standing of a public figure before Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell made it better known.



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