The North American voting machine company Dominion has hit Fox News with a $1.6bn defamation lawsuit, accusing the network of spreading election fraud lies in a misguided effort to stop an exodus of enraged viewers after Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss.
The complaint accuses some of Fox’s biggest personalities Maria Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro “and their chosen guests” of spreading “defamatory falsehoods” about Dominion.
Fox supercharged false conspiracy theories about Dominion, the lawsuit says, by plucking the lies from relatively obscure corners of the far-right internet and broadcasting them to tens of millions of viewers on television and online.
“Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire,” the complaint says. “As the dominant media company among those viewers dissatisfied with the election results, Fox gave these fictions a prominence they otherwise would never have achieved.”
Fox vowed to fight the case in a statement on Friday morning: “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, a large US and Canadian voting machine company, earlier sued the Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani for $1.3bn each for spreading election lies during weeks of legal challenges to Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in what officials have called the most secure election in US history.
On Tuesday, Powell defended herself against the Dominion suit by arguing in court that “no reasonable person” could have mistaken her wild claims about election fraud last November as statements of fact.
A Dominion employee separately sued the Trump campaign after receiving death threats. The company also sued the chief executive of a pillow company, Mike Lindell, a Trump friend who produced a video about election conspiracies.
Baseless conspiracy claims about Dominion accusing the company of using technology that flipped votes away from Trump appear to have originated in anonymous comments on a pro-Trump blog.
But in an effort to steal the presidential election, Trump himself gave the claims the broadest possible platform, including with a 12 November tweet in which he wrote in part: “REPORT: DOMINION DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE.”
Dominion said the lies had threatened its reputation and business.
“Dominion brings this lawsuit to set the record straight, to vindicate its rights, and to recover damages for the devastating economic harm done to its business,” the company said in the Fox lawsuit.
Fox is fighting a legal battle over spreading election lies on multiple fronts. The voting technology company Smartmatic earlier brought a $2.7bn lawsuit against Fox and network commentators accusing them of a “disinformation campaign”.
Fox has filed multiple motions to dismiss the Smartmatic case.
Dominion’s lawsuit says that after the 3 November election, “viewers began fleeing Fox in favor of media outlets endorsing the lie that massive fraud caused President Trump to lose the election.
“They saw Fox as insufficiently supportive of President Trump, including because Fox was the first network to declare that President Trump lost Arizona,” the complaint continues. “So Fox set out to lure viewers back – including President Trump himself – by intentionally and falsely blaming Dominion for President Trump’s loss by rigging the election.”
Dominion brought the suit in Delaware, where Fox is incorporated.
“Fox recklessly disregarded the truth,” the lawsuit says. “Indeed, Fox knew these statements about Dominion were lies …
“Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”