Judge says Tucker Carlson’s voter fraud comments may prove Fox News acted with ‘actual malice’ in Smartmatic libel suit
A New York judge says in a ruling that Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s comments could be crucial in proving the right-wing media company defamed Smartmatic, a tech company falsely accused of rigging the 2020 elections.
One of the questions at the heart of the case was whether Fox News acted with “actual malice” when Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who were acting as campaign attorneys for then President Donald Trump in November 2020, made false claims about Smartmatic, and when Dobbs made similar claims on his Fox Business News show and on social media.
The “actual malice” standard, which is crucial for some defamation lawsuitsmeans Smartmatic may have to prove that Fox News recklessly ignored or deliberately avoided the truth for its case to go to trial.
In his opinion tuesday, Cohen wrote that Tucker Carlson, another Fox News host, may have given Smartmatic some of the ammunition it needs. Unlike Pirro, Dobbs and Bartiromo, Carlson asked Powell to back up his claims that Smartmatic rigged the election results and denounced her when she didn’t show up with the proof she promised.
“Ironically, the statements of Tucker Carlson, perhaps Fox News’ most popular host, argue most strongly for an eventual conclusion that there is a substantial basis that Fox News acted with actual malice. “, wrote Cohen.
Given that Powell didn’t give Carlson proof that Smartmatic flipped the votes, that the Trump campaign told him the evidence didn’t exist, and that election security and government experts have publicly stated that the election rigging allegations were preposterous, there is enough evidence that Fox News avoided the truth to allow Smartmatic’s lawsuit to proceed, Cohen wrote.
“Powell never provided the evidence Carlson requested, and President Trump‘s campaign informed Carlson that he was not aware of any such evidence,” Cohen wrote. “Therefore, there are sufficient allegations that Fox News knew, or should have known, that Powell’s claim was false and deliberately ignored the efforts of its most prominent anchor to obtain substantiation of the allegations of wrongdoing by [Smartmatic].”
It did than making the comments more damaging, Cohen wrote. .
“It is incongruous that Dobbs emphasized the evidence of ‘fraud‘ to which Powell refers when there is no indication that Carlson ever received any substantiation for his claims,” he wrote.
Smartmatic may not need to meet the “actual maliciousness” standard
Smartmatic may not even need to prove that Fox News acted with “actual malice” to win its case, Cohen suggested in its rulings.
The standard generally only applies to public figures who accuse others of defamation, or “limited-purpose public figures” who have some public notoriety.
But Smartmatic’s technology was only used in one county in the 2020 election. In court filings, Smartmatic argued that he could only be considered a “public figure” because of “the controversy created around him by the Fox defendants”, an argument on which Cohen has yet to rule.
“Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false story to be broadcast, there is substantial basis for the plaintiffs’ contention that, at a minimum, Fox News condoned a litany of outrageous claims. on plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of U.S. elections, so inherently unlikely that it demonstrated a reckless disregard for the truth,” Cohen wrote in the decision.
Fox News did not respond to Insider’s request for comment on the judge’s decision. However, a spokesperson for the news channel said in a statement Tuesday that it plans to appeal Cohen’s decision allowing the lawsuit to continue against the company.
Smartmatic, in November, filed a separate lawsuit against Powell in federal court in Washington, DC. Because Cohen dismissed the charges against Powell on jurisdictional grounds, the election tech company is likely to pursue its claims against her there.
Smartmatic’s lawsuit is one of numerous defamation cases sparked by conspiracy theories falsely alleging that Trump won the 2020 election rather than current President Joe Biden. Dominion Voting Systems has also filed a series of defamation lawsuits against Fox News, Powell, Giuliani and other right-wing media organizations and activists.