Dominion Voting Systems Inc. said dismissal of its defamation suit against Fox News Networks would give media companies a “blank check” to knowingly broadcast lies to hundreds of millions of people as long as they deem the falsehoods to be newsworthy.
Tossing the case, as Fox has requested, would upend the U.S. Supreme Court’s decades-old balance of First Amendment rights by allowing media companies to publish defamatory statements even if they know they’re “100% false,” Dominion said in a June 8 filing in state court in Delaware.
Denver-based Dominion, whose technology is used in dozens of states, sued in March after Fox broadcast numerous interviews falsely accusing the voting company of conspiring with Democrats and foreign hackers to flip millions of votes away from former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
Fox argues it had a free-speech right to interview Trump’s lawyers and surrogates about their Dominion claims “regardless of whether they could substantiate their claims.” It could do so, Fox said, because the claims had been made in numerous suits challenging the election result.
Dominion said that’s taking the law too far.
“In Fox’s view, so long as Fox can point to some judicial proceeding somewhere in the country that contains allegations similar to the defamatory statements it broadcast, then the statements are not actionable,” Dominion said in the filing defending its $1.6 billion lawsuit.
Fox News has denied wrongdoing and argues the First Amendment grants broad protection to media firms reporting on matters of public debate.
“Fox News and the free press has a constitutionally protected responsibility to cover newsworthy events, like the president contesting a close election,” the company said Thursday in an emailed statement. “Having chosen to make money in the election business, Dominion cannot now complain that it is scrutinized in a contested election, and having come on Fox News to present its story Dominion cannot now complain that it has been treated unfairly.”
Dominion has also sued Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, MyPillow Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell and former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, all of whom have filed motions to dismiss and are due to make arguments at a joint court hearing in Washington this month.
Dominion urged the court to reject Fox’s “neutral reportage” defense, which relies on a Supreme Court finding that media companies can report false claims made about public figures as long as the reports meet certain criteria.
“Fox’s broadcasts went well beyond any ‘neutral reportage’ of the views of ‘responsible’ persons,” Dominion said in the filing. “Fox instead broadcast the charges of manifestly irresponsible sources — Powell, Giuliani and Lindell — and repeatedly espoused and concurred in the charges, often even communicating defamatory statements about Dominion in its own voice.”
The case is US Dominion Inc. v. Fox News Networks LLC, N21C-03-257 EMD, Superior Court of the State of Delaware.©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC