Saturday, February 13, 2021

Fox Hosts Seeks Dismissal of $2.7B Lawsuit

Bartiromo, Dobbs and Pirro

Fox News Media former and current hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro asked a court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit by voting-machine company Smartmatic USA Corp., arguing their coverage of President Trump’s claims the 2020 election was rigged was protected by the First Amendment.

The Wall Street Journal reports the motions to dismiss the $2.7 billion lawsuit follow a similar move by Fox Corp.’s Fox News, which is also a defendant. The suit, filed last week in a New York court, alleges that Fox and its hosts knowingly allowed false statements on the network’s programs about the reliability of Smartmatic technology. Each of the hosts argued that claims by Mr. Trump and his lawyers were newsworthy.

“Smartmatic is confident in its case and looks forward to briefing these issues for the Court,” Smartmatic’s attorney, J. Erik Connolly, said in a statement. The company said in its suit that the comments on Fox News damaged its reputation with clients irreparably.

Dobbs, whose show on Fox Business was canceled after the suit was filed, argued he was fulfilling the public interest by interviewing members of the president’s team. His filing acknowledges that Mr. Dobbs sometimes offered encouraging opinions on the claims—noting that in one segment he said “[t]his is a nation that has just been wronged mightily”—and expressed hope they would be proven true.

“The line between protected speech and actionable defamation cannot turn on whether a commentator expresses doubt versus hope that a guest can prove…newsworthy claims,” the filing for Mr. Dobbs said.

Fox has said the cancellation of Mr. Dobbs’s show was part of regular programming changes.

Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Pirro made similar arguments. Ms. Bartiromo’s filing said Smartmatic “ignored” an invitation to appear on her show as part of her invitation to “other guests to comment on and criticize the President’s claims.” Ms. Bartiromo’s filing alleged that Smartmatic’s lawsuit was financially motivated.

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