Dominion files $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News over election conspiracy theories

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Jacob Shamsian,Mia Jankowicz
·4 min read
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dominion sues Fox Lou dobbs sidney powell
Sidney Powell appears on "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on Fox Business with allegations against Dominion Voting Systems on November 14. YouTube/Fox News
  • Dominion on Friday filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News over election conspiracy theories.

  • Fox hosts frequently invited Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani on their programs last fall.

  • The two pushed false theories about Dominion flipping election results, with little pushback.

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News on Friday, seeking $1.6 billion in damages.

The suit, seen by Insider, alleged that the network pushed a conspiracy theory that the election-technology company helped rig the 2020 presidential election.

Fox News said in a statement: "Fox News Media 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."

Dominion argued in the suit that Fox News gave prominence to the election-fraud claims as a tactic to revive viewership as ratings dropped after President Donald Trump's loss.

The voting-technology company said that the network "sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process."

That led to the vilification of the company, which previously did not have a major public profile, Dominion said. Employees faced harassment and death threats, it said.

The consequence, according to Dominion's lawyers, was "enormous and irreparable economic harm.

Read more: The Manhattan DA's office picked up the pace of its investigation into Trump's finances after he left office, a cooperating witness says

The false theory held that Dominion, alongside a rival company, Smartmatic, developed technology that switched votes in the November election from Trump to Joe Biden.

It was pushed by Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, two Trump-allied attorneys who sought and failed to overturn the election result in court.

Fox News hosted both lawyers numerous times after the election, even after the network had declared Biden the rightful winner, and in the absence of evidence to back up their claims.

Other segments on Fox News debunked the same claims.

"This was a conscious, knowing business decision to endorse and repeat and broadcast these lies in order to keep its viewership," Justin Nelson, an attorney with Susman Godfrey, told The Associated Press. Dominion argued that other outlets treated the claims very differently.

"Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said Dominion had repeatedly tried to correct the record but was ignored by Fox's personalities "because the lies were good for Fox's business."

In January, Dominion filed defamation lawsuits against Powell and Giuliani individually. Those lawsuits included numerous examples of Giuliani and Powell making their claims in right-wing media, including Fox News, without pushback from hosts.

The suit against Fox News was Dominion's first against a media outlet rather than an individual. The company said that it may yet file lawsuits against specific media personalities, the AP reported.

In February, Smartmatic filed a lawsuit against Fox News, Powell, and Giuliani. It also named the hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro as defendants. Fox News filed four motions to dismiss the case.

Fox News canceled Dobbs' show days later and said he would no longer have a relationship with the network. It added that the move had been planned.

Dominion in December had warned Fox News of an "imminent" lawsuit. As Insider reported, the election-technology company asked the media organization to preserve all documents related to Powell's and Giuliani's claims. It also sent letters to the hosts Sean Hannity, Dobbs, and Bartiromo.

Read more: Dominion sends letters threatening defamation lawsuits to Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and other pro-Trump media figures

Following similar letters from Smartmatic, Fox News aired a clip of an off-screen interviewer speaking with an elections expert who said there was no link between Smartmatic and Dominion and no evidence that Smartmatic participated in malfeasance.

A Fox News representative had also directed Insider to an interview with the host Eric Shawn and an engineering professor who had studied Dominion's technology and said it was "physically impossible" for it to switch votes, and to a clip of the host Tucker Carlson expressing skepticism about Powell.

Tom Clare, an attorney for Dominion, told Insider at the time that the videos were insufficient.

"If you accuse somebody falsely on a prime-time slot or in the host's own voice or in a 10-minute segment, then you need to have equal prominence and equal dignity into the retraction and apology," Clare said.

Dominion made a similar point in the lawsuit filed on Friday, saying that the pushback had not been effective.

"The buck stops with Fox on this," the attorney Stephen Shackelford told the AP. "Fox chose to put this on all of its many platforms. They rebroadcast, republished it on social media and other places."

Read the original article on Business Insider