- Dominion filed a defamation lawsuit against One America News and Newsmax seeking billions in damages.
- The far-right media fixture of the Trump era grew after hosts pushed election conspiracy theories.
- The election technology company also sued individual OAN employees and ex-Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Dominion Voting Systems sued Newsmax and One America News Network on Tuesday, accusing the far-right media organizations of defamation for pushing far-fetched conspiracy theories that the election technology company rigged the 2020 presidential election.
The lawsuit against OAN accuses it of engaging “in a race to the bottom with Fox and other outlets such as Newsmax to spread false and manufactured stories about election fraud.”
“This barrage of lies by the defendants and others have caused and continue to cause severe damage to our company our customers and our employees,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said in a press conference Tuesday. “We have no choice but to hold those responsible to account.”
Dominion also sued Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock and a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, saying he pushed election conspiracy theories as well.
The election technology company also accused OAN hosts Chanel Rion and Christina Bobb of amplifying and spreading false claims about Dominion. The network “deputized” Rion “as an in-house spokesperson for all Dominion-related content,” the lawsuit said.
Each of the lawsuits demands more than $1.6 billion in damages, comprising of $600 million for lost profits, $600,000 for security expenses, and $700,000 for “expenses incurred combatting the disinformation campaign,” and at least $1 billion in “lost enterprise value,” which includes “lost goodwill.”
OAN doubled down on conspiracy theories about Dominion
Tuesday’s is the latest in a series of lawsuits Dominion Voting Systems is filing against people and entities that pushed the conspiracy theory that it manipulated the results of the 2020 election, a myth the company says has done enormous damage to its business and to US democracy itself.
Dominion began in January by suing Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who claimed Dominion has secret ties to the regime of now-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and developed technology that “flipped” votes from then-President Donald Trump to now-President Joe Biden. Dominion also sued MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who pushed versions of that falsehood.
OAN has been a fixture of the far-right in the Trump era and rose to a new level of prominence as it refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory in the 2020 election even as other conservative media organizations, like Fox News, did.
Rion hosted a 30-minute segment called “Dominionizing the Vote” which “branded OAN’s disinformation and defamation campaign against Dominion into a single catchy phrase that is now synonymous with fraudulently flipping votes,” Dominion’s lawsuit said. In the segment, Rion described Dominion executive Eric Coomer as an “Antifa-drenched engineer hell-bent on deleting half of America’s votes” (he isn’t, and Coomer is bringing his own lawsuits) and featured QAnon advocate Ron Watkins as a cybersecurity expert (he has no experience in election security and did not offer evidence that he analyzed Dominion machines). Trump himself tweeted out the video before Twitter shut down his account.
Dominion sent OAN, as well as dozens of other organizations and individuals, document retention letters warning of lawsuits in the weeks after the election. While Fox News and Newsmax pulled back on far-fetched election claims and aired videos attesting to the legitimacy of the results, OAN doubled down. In letters obtained by Insider, it warned Dominion of a countersuit and asked them to retain documents of their own, referencing the same far-fetched conspiracy theories about Venezuela.
At the same time, OAN quietly scrubbed its website of references to election conspiracy theories, Dominion, and Smartmatic, another election technology company.
The election technology company said that OAN’s falsehoods contributed toward the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.
“Some OAN viewers believed the lies about Dominion with such devotion that they took the fight to the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, and at rallies across the country to #StopTheSteal, inflicting violence, terror, and death along the way,” the lawsuit said, adding: “An OAN flag was seen among the flags flown by the rioters at the Capitol on January 6.”
Newsmax pushed lies for profit, Dominion says
Newsmax, the right-wing outlet owned and run by Donald Trump’s friend Chris Ruddy, was slow to acknowledge the reality of President Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election. Instead, it hosted Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, two attorneys who worked on Trump’s legal team challenging the election results.
Both Powell and Giuliani have promoted conspiracy theories that the election was marred by fraud on the part of Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, a rival election technology company. The two lawyers claimed the companies developed a way of falsifying election results under the regime of now-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
Dominion says allowing Powell and Giuliani to spout their false theories unchallenged on Newsmax’s programs amounts to defamation. It had warned of lawsuits in December in document retention letters sent to Newsmax’s executive leadership and to Greg Kelly, one of the channel’s hosts.
Newsmax representative Brian Peterson told Insider that the media organization was simply reporting on what notable figures said.
“While Newsmax has not reviewed the Dominion filing, in its coverage of the 2020 Presidential elections, Newsmax simply reported on allegations made by well-known public figures, including the President, his advisors and members of Congress – Dominion’s action today is a clear attempt to squelch such reporting and undermine a free press,” Peterson said.
After Smartmatic warned of a lawsuit, also in December, Newsmax aired a statement to “clarify” that there was, in fact, no evidence of widespread voter fraud or election manipulation, and that Smartmatic had no ties to Venezuela.
Asked whether Dominion would be satisfied by a similar statement, Tom Clare, Dominion’s defamation attorney, laughed and said “no” in an interview with Insider.
“If you accuse somebody falsely on a primetime 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 in a December interview.
In the lawsuit, Dominion accused Newsmax of promoting falsehoods about the company in order to compete with Fox News, which had correctly recognized Biden’s victory in November.
“Newsmax chose to prioritize its profits over the truth,” the lawsuit said. “For Ruddy and Newsmax, the facts did not matter. What mattered was feeding the audience what it wanted – even if it was spreading false information. And the race to the bottom began in earnest, dragging Dominion down with it.”
Dominion and Smartmatic are suing election conspiracy theorists
Dominion is also involved in defamation lawsuits against Powell, Giuliani, and pro-Trump pillow mogul Mike Lindell. Its new lawsuit against Patrick Byrne says the businessman waged “a defamatory disinformation campaign against Dominion in collaboration with Sidney Powell, General Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, and others” by pushing falsehoods about the election.
Dominion suggested in its lawsuit against Lindell that it would soon sue OAN. OAN had aired “Absolute Proof,” a conspiracy theory-filled “docu-movie” Lindell produced in an attempt to change the results of the election. The new lawsuit says OAN’s broadcast of the video was part of the company’s overall disinformation campaign.
Dominion attorney Thomas Clare said in the Lundell lawsuit that OAN produced a “barely legible” disclaimer for the video amounted to “a calculated attempt to avoid defamation liability for the lies it was about to knowingly broadcast to a global audience.”
“OAN was fully aware that Lindell’s ‘docu-movie’ was full of lies, but – like Fox News, Newsmax, and others – was content to deceive its viewers in exchange for ad dollars,” Clare wrote in the lawsuit.