Fox files motion to dismiss Smartmatic's $2.7 billion defamation suit over company's voting machines

The media giant says it covered Smartmatic as a matter of national interest and cannot be held liable for statements made by the former president's allies
A political display is posted on the outside of the Fox News headquarters on 6th Avenue in New York July 21, 2020.

February 9, 2021 8:26am

Updated: February 9, 2021 10:30am

Fox News Corp. has filed a motion to dismiss a $2.7 billion defamation suit by the Smartmatic technology company alleging the media group and three of its TV anchors spreading falsehoods about the company, whose voting machines were used in the 2020 presidential elections, attempting to rig the race against then-President Trump.

Smartmatic filed its suit last week. Fox filed its response Monday with the New York Supreme Court. The media company is arguing that the accounts that Smartmatic is attempting to classify as defamation, were in fact matters of national interest.

"This lawsuit strikes at the heart of the news media’s First Amendment mission to inform on matters of public concern," reads Fox's motion to dismiss. "An attempt by a sitting president to challenge the result of an election is objectively newsworthy."

Attorney Paul Clement, a partner at the Washington, D.C. office of the firm Kirkland and Ellis, is leading Fox's defense team.

"Smartmatic’s theory is fundamentally incompatible with the reality of the modern news network and deeply rooted principles of free speech law," Clement said in a statement. 

Fox after being hit with the lawsuit last week canceled the nightly Fox Business program hosted by veteran anchor Lou Dobbs, who is one of the anchors named in the suit along with Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.

The network is also arguing that it is not responsible for the accusations made by the president and his allies – including but not limited to then-Trump personal lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

Some of the accusations allege Smartmatic and at least one other voting machine company altered election results.

"The public had a right to know, and Fox had a right to cover, that the president and his allies were accusing Smartmatic (and others) of manipulating the election results, regardless of the ultimate truth or accuracy of those allegations," reads the motion.

Additionally, Fox is arguing that Smartmatic should be seen by the law as a public figure. Which would mean that it must meet a significantly higher legal bar to prove it was defamed, proving that the defendants either understood their statements were untrue or had very serious doubts about them.