Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems said Friday morning it's adding Fox News to the list of those it sees a defamers liable for the damage to the company's brand.
The company's $1.6 billion lawsuit accuses the news network, a favorite of President Donald Trump, of turning a profit off false claims that Dominion was at the center of an international conspiracy to switch votes to Democrat Joe Biden.
Lawyers for the company said Friday that the widely publicized claims — the basis of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol — amounted to the network turning a profit off damaging Dominion's reputation.
“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,” a spokesperson said in a statement to Colorado Politics.
Dominion already has sued Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Guiliani, as well as MyPillow founder and Trump supporter Mike Lindell, for $1.3 billion each.
This week Powell indicated her defense is that no reasonable person should have taken the voter fraud claims seriously.
Dominion Voting Systems filed its latest defamation complaint in the Superior Court of Delaware, noting it said it filed demands for retractions.
Several Fox News hosts have aired segments saying the opinions expressed on the shows were those of their guests and hosts, not the network. That's the defense Fox News is used in its request to dismiss a $2.7 billion lawsuit from another voting software company, Smartmatic.
Both companies have countered that the claims against them were political and demonstrably false. Indeed, lawyers for the Trump campaign tried and failed in dozens of lawsuits to overturn the November election and were unsuccessful, fielding criticism at times from the respective judges over the lack of evidence.
Dominion said Friday it had reached out to Fox News more than 30 times to say "their smears were not true" and Fox continued to provide a platform for the defamation, Dominion said Friday morning.
"The disinformation campaign waged against our company has caused us severe damage and undermined trust in American democratic institutions," Dominion CEO John Poulos. "These lies also have threatened the personal safety of our employees and customers. No amount of money will repair the damage done."
Dominion's attorney Tom Clare, one of the nation's highest profile defamation lawyers, said the effort to undermine the results of the elected, instead, undermined Fox's position as a new source.
"Fox actively propagated disinformation to purposely mislead viewers," he said. "It knowingly spread lies about Dominion Voting Systems repeatedly for months, all the while deliberately ignoring Dominion's specific and repeated warnings that these smears were not true.
"Furthermore, multiple U.S. government agencies, third parties, and elected officials across 28 states have conclusively affirmed that no voting system deleted, lost, or changed votes in the 2020 election. However, if a viewer watched Fox, they would be none the wiser. The network endorsed, repeated, and broadcast a series of verifiably false, yet devastating, lies about Dominion. Fox's viral disinformation campaign reached over a billion people worldwide and caused enormous harm to Dominion."
In the same Friday morning statement, lawyer Stephen Shackelford said the network told a story that wrongfully cast Dominion as a villain.
Dominion does business with elections offices across the country, including 62 of Colorado's 64 counties.
"To serve its own commercial purposes, Fox News fanned the flames of conspiracy theories, taking a small flame and helping turn it into a raging fire," Shackelford said.
Roy Gutterman, director of The Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University's Newhouse School, said the lawsuit could change how broadcasters handle questionable claims in the future.
“Like the other lawsuits, what constitutes truth and lies in a heated political discussion is at the heart of the matter," he said in a statement Friday morning. "But so is how a broadcaster or a politically-bent broadcaster addresses these types of issues. The lawsuit is packed with example after example and names several of Fox’s top personalities as facilitating and making potentially false statements about Dominion.
Gutterman said there were "textbook examples" of defamation that qualify for monetary relief under civil laws, as laid out in Dominion's lawsuit.
"But there will also be a defense to challenge the claims, or at least explain its rationale for what Fox and its on-air personalities knew, said or disseminated,” he cautioned.