- Conspiracy theorists claim Dominion and Smartmatic “flipped” votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
- The election technology companies are now suing the people who spread those claims.
- Here’s who’s being sued so far.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Dominion and Smartmatic have launched a series of defamation lawsuits against individuals and groups who spread election fraud conspiracy theories related to their voting machines during the 2020 presidential election.
Dominion filed three $US1.6 ($AU2) billion defamation suits against One America News, Newsmax, and Patrick Byrne Tuesday, and more could be on their way. Dominion has sent cease-and-desist notices and warnings to preserve documents to more than 150 people, and its CEO previously told CNBC that the company was “not ruling anyone out.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, people turned to alternative ways to vote in the election, and voter fraud conspiracy theories quickly sprung up.
One posited that Dominion and Smartmatic developed technology that “flipped” votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden through a method developed with the regime of the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez.
The theory has been thoroughly debunked. That didn’t stop pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell and Trump’s former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani from pushing elements of the theory while filing a series of failed lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of the election. Lindell has also spread misinformation about the machines, saying Dominion “built them to cheat.”
As well as making the brand “radioactive” and putting its multiyear contracts in jeopardy, according to its attorney Tom Clare, the allegations about Dominion also put its employees in danger, the company wrote in a lawsuit.
Its customer support number received a voicemail message saying “we’re bringing back the firing squad,” it wrote in the suit in January. The need for heightened personal security cost Dominion $US565,000 ($AU783,797), according to the lawsuit, bringing its total costs attributed to the vote fraud claims to almost $US1.2 ($AU2) million.
Here’s a list of everyone is being sued so far.
On January 8, it filed a defamation suit against pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell, seeking $US1.3 ($AU2) billion in damages.
Powell was one of the faces of the Trump campaign’s legal team in November, but Trump kicked her off the team after she floated her conspiracy theory at a press conference.
Despite being purged from Trump’s “Elite Strike Force” legal team Powell used her false theories as the premise of four federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the election result. All of them failed, and some have resulted in motions for her to be disbarred.
Dominion’s lawsuit alleges that Powell’s claims caused the company business losses after she baselessly accused the company of fraud, election rigging, and bribery.
“Powell’s statements were calculated to — and did in fact — provoke outrage and cause Dominion enormous harm,” Tom Clare, the attorney representing Dominion, wrote in the lawsuit.
The 124-page defamation lawsuit also outlines how Powell raised money from her media tour peddling her conspiracy theory through a corporate vehicle called “Defending the Republic,” also named as a party in the lawsuit.
Smartmatic filed a defamation lawsuit against Powell a month later, suing her at the same time it sued Rudy Giuliani, a fellow conspiracy theorist, and Fox News.
The company claimed that Powell and Giuliani used right-wing media outlets like Fox News to make their conspiracy theories go viral.
“These defendants are primary sources of much of the false information,” the company said. “Their unfounded accusations were repeated by other media outlets, journalists, bloggers and influencers the world over.”
A federal judge Wednesday denied Powell’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, Dominion accused Giuliani of creating “a viral disinformation campaign about Dominion,” referring to more than 50 of his statements.
Through hearings, television appearances, Twitter, and his own YouTube show, it said, Giuliani repeatedly accused Dominion of election fraud and misrepresented the company’s security measures while doing so.
He “cashed in by hosting a podcast where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves,'” Dominion wrote in the lawsuit.
The 107-page document also cited numerous other people who said they believed Giuliani’s claims, which it argued demonstrated the scope of the damage.
“Rudy Giuliani actively propagated disinformation to purposefully mislead voters,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said in a statement. “Because Giuliani and others incessantly repeated the false claims about my company on a range of media platforms, some of our own family and friends are among the Americans who were duped.”
In a statement, Giuliani said he welcomed the lawsuit and suggested he had not previously done a thorough investigation of Dominion’s practices.
A federal judge Wednesday denied Giuliani’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Smartmatic also included Giuliani as a defendant in its lawsuit filed in February.
The company said Giuliani used the conspiracy theories to enrich himself.
“He reportedly would seek thousands of dollars ($US20,000 ($AU27,745)/day) in fees from President Trump to spread the story and file frivolous lawsuits,” Smartmatic wrote in its lawsuit.
“He would also use the attention brought to him as one of the primary storytellers to sell various products – from coins to supplements to title fraud protection.”
Dominion’s lawsuit accused Lindell of repeatedly making false allegations while knowing there was no credible evidence to support his claims. As well as rallies, interviews, and a two-hour movie, Lindell used his social-media profiles to spread his baseless claims of voter fraud.
In the lawsuit, Dominion claimed Lindell used the claims as a way to ramp up his pillow sales, advertising on far-right media outlets that parroted his claims and sponsoring a bus tour that sought to overturn the election results. Lindell told Insider that retailer boycotts of MyPillow following the insurrection have cost him tens of millions of dollars in business.
He “knowingly lied about Dominion to sell more pillows to people who continued tuning in to hear what they wanted to hear about the election,” Dominion wrote.
Lindell told Insider Dominion had “zero, zero, zero” chance of winning. The lawsuits were part of cancel culture’s attempts at silencing voices, he said.
“I looked at it as a great day for America when they sued me,” Lindell added. “I can put the evidence for the whole world to see, and it’ll be public record, and the media will quit trying to suppress it.”
A federal judge Wednesday denied Lindell’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“In November and December 2020, Fox News broadcast multiple reports stating and implying that Smartmatic had fixed and rigged the 2020 election,” the company said.
“They repeated the false claims and accusations on air and in articles and social media postings that were together seen by millions in the US and even more around the world.”
Fox called the lawsuit “meritless” and asked a judge to dismiss the case.
On March 26, Dominion also filed a lawsuit against Fox News. The $US1.6 ($AU2) billion suit – its biggest yet – claimed that the network gave prominence to the election-fraud claims as a tactic to revive viewership as ratings dropped after President Donald Trump’s loss.
The voting-technology company said that Fox News “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.”
In a statement, Fox News said: “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.” It moved to dismiss the suit in May.
A Fox News representative told Insider in February that the network ran several “fact-check” segments “prior to any lawsuit chatter.”
While several of its news shows reported that there was no evidence of Dominion’s systems changing votes, Fox News, in particular its opinion hosts, “questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it at least 774 times” in the two weeks after the network called the race, according to Media Matters.
Smartmatic said the hosts had offered Powell and Giuliani a platform and endorsed their falsehoods.
Bartiromo, Pirro, and Dobbs all filed separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit.
Fox News canceled Dobbs’ show days after the lawsuit was filed and said he would no longer have a relationship with the network. It added that the move had been planned.
Newsmax was slow to acknowledge the reality of Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election. 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.”
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.
OAN refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory in the 2020 election even as Fox News and Newsmax pulled back on far-fetched election claims and aired videos attesting to the legitimacy of the results.
Dominion said that OAN’s falsehoods contributed toward the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 and that it defamed Dominion by broadcasting “Absolute Proof,” Lindell’s conspiracy theory-filled documentary about voter fraud.
Dominion also accused OAN hosts Chanel Rion and Christina Bobb of amplifying and spreading false claims about Dominion.
After Dominion threatened to sue OAN for defamation in December, OAN warned Dominion of a countersuit.
The lawsuit accuses Byrne, a staunch Trump ally, of waging “a defamatory disinformation campaign against Dominion” in collaboration with Powell, Giuliani, Lindell, and others. This includes pushing election conspiracy theories in television appearances, a blog series, a book, and a film, Dominion said.
“Byrne continues to stick to his manufactured, inherently improbable, profitable, and demonstrable lies,” the lawsuit said.
Asked directly if Dominion would sue Trump, Shackelford, an attorney at Susman Godfrey LLP, told Insider’s Jacob Shamsian Tuesday that the company has not ruled it out.
“We are still exploring options as to how to hold other participants in the campaign of lies against Dominion to account,” Shackelford said.