On Feb. 4, 2021, the Smartmatic voting technology company filed a lawsuit in New York against the Fox Corporation; the Fox News Network; Fox News hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro; and lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The complaint seeks damages from the defendants of an amount “no less than $2.7 billion” for knowingly making “false statements and implications during news broadcasts, in online reports, and on social media that Smartmatic’s election technology and software were designed and used to fix, rig and steal elections.”
Much of Smartmatic’s 285-page complaint is boilerplate and legalese commonly found in defamation lawsuits, but the introduction to the company’s complaint is noteworthy both as a roundup of all the false narratives spewed about the supposed illegitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results, and as a primer on how some so-called news organizations and journalists manipulate information to attract audiences and, ultimately, dollars.
The introduction to Smartmatic’s complaint also offers a chilling glimpse into the effects of such media manipulation, impacting everything from a blameless company’s reputation and the safety of its innocent employees, to the security of our national legislators and the public’s faith in democracy itself.
Accordingly, we have reproduced it below:
The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States. The election was not stolen, rigged, or fixed. These are facts. They are demonstrable and irrefutable.
Defendants have always known these facts. They knew Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 U.S. election. They knew the election was not stolen. They knew the election was not rigged or fixed. They knew these truths just as they knew the Earth is round and two plus two equals four.
Defendants did not want Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to win the election. They wanted President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence to win re-election. Defendants were disappointed. But they also saw an opportunity to capitalize on President Trump’s popularity by inventing a story. Defendants decided to tell people that the election was stolen from President Trump and Vice President Pence.
Defendants had an obvious problem with their story. They needed a villain. They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.
Without any true villain, Defendants invented one. Defendants decided to make Smartmatic the villain in their story. Smartmatic is an election technology and software company. It was incorporated in Delaware and its U.S. operations are headquartered in Florida. In the 2020 U.S. election, Smartmatic provided election technology and software in Los Angeles County. Nowhere else. Smartmatic had a relatively small, non-controversial role in the 2020 U.S. election.
Those facts would not do for Defendants. So, the Defendants invented new ones. In their story, Smartmatic was a Venezuelan company under the control of corrupt dictators from socialist countries. In their story, Smartmatic’s election technology and software were used in many of the states with close outcomes. And, in their story, Smartmatic was responsible for stealing the 2020 election by switching and altering votes to rig the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Having invented their story, and created their villain, Defendants set about spreading the word. In November and December 2020, Fox News broadcasted thirteen (13) reports stating and implying that Smartmatic had stolen the 2020 U.S. election. They repeated the story in articles and social media postings. Night after night, publication after publication, Fox News reached out to its millions of viewers and readers around the world with a story: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris did not win the 2020 election; Smartmatic stole the election for them.
Defendants’ story evolved over time as they claimed evidence had come to their attention supporting the story. The story came to consist of eight themes:
- Smartmatic’s election technology and software were widely used in the 2020 U.S. election, including in six states with close outcomes.
- Smartmatic’s election technology and software were used by Dominion Voting Systems Corporation (“Dominion”) during the 2020 U.S. election.
- Smartmatic’s election technology and software were used to steal the 2020 U.S. election by rigging and fixing the vote.
- Smartmatic’s election technology and software sent votes to foreign countries for tabulation and manipulation during the 2020 U.S. election.
- Smartmatic’s election technology and software were compromised and hacked during the 2020 U.S. election.
- Smartmatic was previously banned from being used in U.S. elections.
- Smartmatic is a Venezuelan company that was founded and funded by
corrupt dictators from socialist and communist countries.
- Smartmatic’s election technology and software were designed to rig and fix elections.
Defendants’ story was a lie. All of it. And they knew it. But, it was a story that sold. Millions of individuals who saw and read Defendants’ reports believed them to be true. Smartmatic and its officers began to receive hate mail and death threats. Smartmatic’s clients and potential clients began to panic. The company’s reputation for providing transparent, auditable, and secure election technology and software was irreparably harmed. Overnight, Smartmatic went from an under-the-radar election technology and software company with a track record of success to the villain in Defendants’ disinformation campaign.
Smartmatic’s loss was Defendants’ gain. Fox News used the story to preserve its grip on viewers and readers and curry favors with the outgoing administration – one of their anchors was even able to get a pardon for her ex-husband. Ms. Powell used the story to raise money and enrich herself. Mr. Giuliani used the story to guarantee himself a flow of funds from the sitting President and to sell products. Defendants knew the story could not change the outcome of the election. It could, and did, make them money.
The story, of course, did more than just make Defendants’ money and jeopardize Smartmatic’s survival. The story undermined people’s belief in democracy. The story turned neighbor against neighbor. The story led a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. Defendants started a fire for selfish and financial reasons and they cared not the damage their story caused to Smartmatic, its officers and employees, and the country.
With this action, Smartmatic says: Enough. Facts matter. Truth matters. Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to spread disinformation about Smartmatic. They lied. And they did so knowingly and intentionally. Smartmatic seeks to hold them accountable for those lies and for the damage that their lies have caused.