Dominion Voting Systems, the company that creates much of the voting infrastructure used to cast ballots in the U.S., filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News Friday morning seeking $1.6 billion in damages. The suit alleges that the right-wing news network knowingly and purposely broadcast falsehoods about the election technology company that was at the heart of the Trump-driven election fraud conspiracy theory that consumed the network and nearly devoured the nation. Fox “endorsed, repeated, and broadcast a series of verifiably false yet devastating lies about Dominion,” the suit states. “Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire.”
The claims, which started on the QAnon fringe before creeping their way into the former president’s brain, were over-the-top ludicrous. Dominion, the conspiracies went, was the key player in the successful plot to “rig” the election. The company surreptitiously switched votes! It was paying kickbacks to election officials—even Republican ones—to keep it quiet! One-time Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani made dark claims about “the algorithm” and, when all of that didn’t seem on the nose enough, they came up with a Rorschach test of Republican lunacy, pushing the idea that the company and the whole sinister plot was somehow linked to socialist Venezuela and the country’s former president Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013.
The lies were outlandish, and those who propagated them are now trying to wriggle free of their consequences. The Dominion suit alleges that not only did the Fox network knowingly broadcast false statements—over and over and over again—it did so with a commercial purpose in mind: to hold on to viewers who were decamping for more extreme sites considered more loyal to Trump. “Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process,” the suit claims.
Well, yeah. It’s hard to argue with the baseline accusation that Fox did all of those things and it did those things for its own financial benefit. Whether that ultimately rises to the technical legal definition of defamation remains to be seen, but what Fox did here is plain as day. Last month, another election technology company, Smartmatic, which has been aggressively going after Trump’s right-wing enablers, filed a similar $2.7 billion suit against the network, as well as a trio of its highest-profile hosts: Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro. Dominion has already sued two of the biggest individual distributors of election fraud misinformation, pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani. Powell this week filed a motion to dismiss the suit, claiming that no “reasonable person” would have believed her claims to be true. The even a tomato can knew we were full of it theory seems like a worrying sign for Fox News’ how were we to know? defense.
In response to the suit, Fox News Media issued a statement saying the company “is proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism, and will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”