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Florida-based elections vendor sues conservative media over fraud reports

According to Smartmatic, a Boca Raton company, its software was used in only one local jurisdiction in the U.S. this year, in Los Angeles County. Yet that software was at the center of a conspiracy theory promoted by Fox News and other outlets.
Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, left, listens to Sidney Powell, both lawyers for President Donald Trump, during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.
Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, left, listens to Sidney Powell, both lawyers for President Donald Trump, during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington. [ JACQUELYN MARTIN | AP ]
Published Dec. 14, 2020|Updated Dec. 14, 2020

A global elections vendor founded in South Florida is threatening to sue Fox News and other conservative media outlets for defamation unless they prominently retract unfounded reports alleging a conspiracy to rig the 2020 vote against President Donald Trump.

Smartmatic, which keeps its U.S. headquarters in Boca Raton, announced Monday that it may file lawsuits against Fox News, One America News Network and Newsmax over a “concerted disinformation campaign” to claim or suggest the company was involved in an effort to steal the Nov. 3 election from Trump. All three networks have amplified baseless claims by Trump and attorneys working with his campaign that Smartmatic software was used to manipulate vote totals.

“They have no evidence to support their attacks on Smartmatic because there is no evidence,” Antonio Mugica, CEO of Smartmatic, said in a statement released to the media. “This campaign was designed to defame Smartmatic and undermine legitimately conducted elections.”

In a letter last week to Fox News’ general counsel, an attorney representing Smartmatic, J. Erik Connolly, said the network’s reporting had led to death threats against employees and executives for the elections company. He demanded that the network preserve documents and communications related to its reporting in case Smartmatic chooses to file a lawsuit.

A Smartmatic spokeswoman told the Miami Herald that Newsmax and OANN received similar letters. The company has also said that letters would also be sent to Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani and to Sidney Powell, a lawyer who appeared with Giuliani during a rambling news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington last month.

Newsmax responded Monday by saying the network — a pro-Trump outlet also based in Palm Beach County — “has never made a claim of impropriety about Smartmatic, its ownership or software.”

“Individuals, including plaintiff’s attorneys, Congressmen and others, have appeared on Newsmax raising questions about the company and its voting software, citing legal documents or previously published reports about Smartmatic,” the statement said. “As any major media outlet, we provide a forum for public concerns and discussion. In the past we have welcomed Smartmatic and its representatives to counter such claims they believe to be inaccurate and will continue to do so.”

Attempts to reach OANN were not successful. Irena Briganti, Fox News’ senior executive vice president for corporate communications, did not respond to two emails seeking comment.

Though they have presented no credible evidence to support it, Trump and attorneys working with or on behalf of his campaign have claimed for weeks that Smartmatic worked to manipulate the 2020 election. The allegations revolve around an unsupported conspiracy theory that Smartmatic worked with Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan strongman, to create an election software that allowed for the manipulation of results, and then used that software to prevent Trump from winning a second term.

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The allegations have been submitted in recent weeks on behalf of losing lawsuits seeking to overturn results in swing states that voted for Democratic nominee and President-elect Joe Biden. U.S. authorities have publicly confirmed the security of the election and said investigations into fraud allegations have produced no evidence.

Furthermore, according to Smartmatic, the company’s software was used in only one local jurisdiction in the U.S. this year, in Los Angeles County. But the claims have been repeated by guests and hosts on the three networks. And in his 20-page letter to Fox News, Connolly highlighted dozens of statements by hosts and by Giuliani and Powell claiming that Smartmatic’s software included a “backdoor” to rig election results.

“The damage your disinformation campaign has done, and will do, to Smartmatic’s revenue and business valuation will be measured in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars,” Connolly wrote to Fox, noting the importance of reputation to an elections vendor. “Your false and defamatory statements undermine the reputation for reliability that Smartmatic has spent almost 20 years building.”

Connolly demanded that Fox publish a retraction by Tuesday. A company spokeswoman did not immediately say whether the company had received a response from any of the media outlets.

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