Fox News Personalities Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs And Jeanine Pirro File For Dismissal Of Smartmatic Lawsuit
Fox News personalities Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro contend that they were well within the bounds of First Amendment protection as they covered ultimately false claims that Smartmatic rigged the election results against Donald Trump.
“Smartmatic’s 285-page, $2.7 billion complaint is not just meritless; it is a legal shakedown designed to chill speech and punish reporting on issues that cut to the heart of our democracy,” Bartiromo’s attorneys wrote in her response to the election systems company’s lawsuit.
Bartiromo, Dobbs and Pirro were named as defendants in Smartmatic’s lawsuit filed last week. On Monday evening, defendants Fox Corp. and Fox News also filed a motion to dismiss the case. Two other defendants are named in the lawsuit, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who have been guests on Fox News shows.
Smartmatic claims in a 285-page lawsuit that its reputation “irreparably harmed” when some of its news personalities and guests targeted the company as responsible for rigging election results.
In their lawsuit, Smartmatic accuses the defendants, disappointed that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election, of inventing the story of the company’s involvement in election fraud. Smartmatic identified 13 Fox News segments from November and December, in which on-air personalities and guests implied or stated the company “had stolen the 2020 U.S. election,” according to their complaint.
The responses from the Fox News figures also call for dismissal of the lawsuit under New York’s anti-SLAPP law, which is designed to prevent the stifling of speech via litigation threats.
Fox News and its personalities are represented by the same firm representing the network, Kirkland & Ellis, including Paul Clement, who was solicitor general under George W. Bush.
Bartiromo interviewed Trump on Nov. 29, in what was his first interview since the election. In their lawsuit, Smartmatic contends that she “joined Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell in claiming that Smartmatic had stolen the 2020 U.S. election from President Trump. Ms. Bartiromo joining the conspiracy would help her obtain more exclusive interviews with President Trump (in and out of office) as well as individuals and companies who supported President Trump. Indeed, Ms. Bartiromo’s decision to join the conspiracy paid off.” Smartmatic noted that Bartiromo was among the news personalities tapped to rotate as one of the opinion hosts on the show Fox News Primetime.
In Bartiromo’s case, her attorneys argue that Smartmatic’s lawsuit “acknowledges that Bartiromo pressed the President’s lawyers for evidence, repeatedly reminded viewers that the President’s lawyers needed to back up their claims with proof, and interviewed guests who were skeptical or dismissive of the claims the President and his legal team were pressing.
In the brief, Bartiromo’s attorneys contend that Smartmatic fails to allege that she engaged in actual malice. They write that the “theory of actual malice is a non-starter under settled First Amendment precedent, which squarely holds that even in the context of news reporting, the ‘failure to investigate before publishing, even when a reasonably prudent person would have done so, is not sufficient to establish reckless disregard.’”
Dobbs’ show, Lou Dobbs Tonight, was dropped from the Fox Business lineup last week, one day after Smartmatic filed its lawsuit.
In its motion to dismiss earlier this week, Fox News also argued that Smartmatic is a public figure, meaning it would have to prove that the network “published the challenged statements with actual malice—knowing or reckless disregard of the truth.”
In the motions to dismiss, the attorneys also claim that Smartmatic filed the lawsuit to make up for financial losses.
“Smartmatic’s headline-seeking, multi-billion-dollar lawsuit thus should be seen—and rejected—for what it is: an unconstitutional attempt by a money-losing company (Smartmatic reported $17 million in losses on just $144 million in revenue in 2019) to try to fill its coffers at the expense of our constitutional traditions,” they wrote.
More to come.
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