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Fox News runs fact check in response to defamation charges by voting software firm

Sidney Powell leans in to speak into the ear of Rudy Giuliani.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani listens to Sidney Powell, both lawyers for President Trump, during a Nov. 19 news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

In an unusual move, Fox News is airing a segment to counter previous remarks made by its conservative hosts and pro-Trump guests that voting software firm Smartmatic was involved in election fraud.

The taped segment where a voting technology expert shoots down the many claims the conservative-leaning cable news channel presented about the London-based Smartmatic first aired Friday on Fox Business Network’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and was repeated on Jeanine Pirro’s show “Justice With Judge Jeanine” on Saturday night and Maria Bartiromo’s program, “Sunday Morning Futures.”

For the record:

1:26 p.m. Dec. 21, 2020An earlier version of this story misspelled the family name of Smartmatic’s litigation counsel as J. Erik Connelly. The correct spelling is Connolly.

The three-minute interview with Eddie Perez, a nonpartisan expert from the Palo Alto-based Open Source Election Technology Institute, is an apparent response to a Dec. 10 letter from attorneys for Smartmatic. The letter accused Fox News of airing numerous false and defamatory statements about the company in numerous segments on President Trump’s baseless claims that widespread voter fraud and tampering with voting machines were what led to his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.

Smartmatic said in the letter that Fox News had aided “a concerted disinformation campaign” presenting unsupported claims that the company conspired to change the results of the vote to benefit Biden. While Fox News journalists have repeatedly reported there is no evidence to back Trump’s claims, its pro-Trump commentators — some of whom confer with the president off-camera — have continued to give it some credence.

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Most of the claims cited in the letter were made by Trump campaign lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell in their frequent guest appearances. But the falsehoods were often unchallenged or presented as fact by Dobbs, Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, who have made their programs regular forums for the president’s often unhinged charges that have been repeatedly shot down in court.

The falsehoods have included unsupported theories that Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of voting machines and software, have ties to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who is a target of right-wing media.

Maria Bartiromo hosts "Sunday Morning Futures" on Fox News.
Maria Bartiromo hosts “Sunday Morning Futures” on Fox News.
(Fox News Channel)

Smartmatic’s attorneys have sent similar letters to conservative news channels Newsmax and One America News, which have been even more vociferous in presenting Trump’s election fraud claims and in commentary that gives them validity.

Newsmax aired its own fact check on the statements made by guests and commentators on its programs on Monday that disputed many of the claims made by guests on its programs. The clarifications also appeared in a story on the Newsmax website.

“There are several facts our viewers and readers should be aware,” the company said in the statements read by its anchors. “Newsmax has found no evidence either Dominion or Smartmatic owns the other, or has any business association with each other. We have no evidence Dominion uses Smartmatic’s software or vice versa. No evidence has been offered that Dominion or Smartmatic used software or reprogrammed software that manipulated votes in the 2020 election.”

A Fox News representative did not comment on the letter, beyond citing the Perez interview that aired on Dobbs and confirmation that it will be airing twice more.

The legal salvo from Smartmatic may be a precursor to a defamation suit against Fox News, Newsmax and One America News. Smartmatic’s litigation counsel J. Erik Connolly declined comment on the Fox News segment, citing “potential litigation.”

Fox News, CNN and MSNBC saw record ratings under President Trump, who is not yet done reshaping the cable news landscape.

Although Fox News has previously issued corrections and clarifications to reports and commentary shown on the network, none was as detailed as the Smartmatic segment, although there was no admission of an error in the tape or in Dobbs’ comments that preceded its airing.

In the Fox News interview, Perez answers questions read to him by a producer not seen on camera. He says he has seen no evidence that Smartmatic software was used to delete, alter or change the vote tabulation.

Perez also says he’s not aware that Smartmatic has had any business relationship with election officials outside Los Angeles County — where the company provided election hardware and software — during the 2020 election, which means the company was not involved in the vote tabulations that occurred in swing states that Trump contested.

Perez says Dominion and Smartmatic are independent companies that are not related to each other. He says there is no corporate connection between Soros or Smartmatic.

Perez is not aware of evidence that votes were sent outside the U.S. to be tabulated. “In the United States, the ballots that are cast in the United States are counted in the United States,” he says.

Smartmatic has been aggressively pushing back on the accusations made. The company’s chief executive, Antonio Mugica, wrote an opinion column that ran Saturday in USA Today to defend its reputation and call out the outlets that have willfully spread misinformation.

“Attacks against fair and independently verified elections not only attempt to compromise the will of the people, they deceitfully cast aspersions on the companies who have worked to provide technology to assist elections and the public officials dedicated to election integrity,” Mugica wrote. “It is also an insult to all the voters who exercised their right to vote. Although Smartmatic did not provide any products or otherwise operate in any swing state in the 2020 election, the slander being thrown around causes serious harm not just to our company, but to the entire elections industry and — more importantly — democracy itself.”


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