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Judge says Smartmatic can pursue election-rigging claims against Fox News, Giuliani

The state judge dismissed all claims against Jeanine Pirro of Fox News and former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
Image: Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani, then the personal attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks about the 2020 presidential election results at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 19, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

A New York state judge on Tuesday said Smartmatic can pursue its $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit claiming that Fox News Network, Rudolph Giuliani and others falsely accused the electronic voting systems maker of helping rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election to favor Democrat Joe Biden.

Justice David Cohen of New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan rejected bids by Rupert Murdoch's Fox Corp, anchor Maria Bartiromo and former anchor Lou Dobbs to dismiss Smartmatic's claims against them.

Cohen also said Smartmatic can pursue some claims against Giuliani, who worked as a lawyer for former Republican President Donald Trump. He dismissed all claims against Fox host Jeanine Pirro and former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.

Smartmatic accused the defendants of turning the company into a "villain" by fabricating a story that its technology helped Biden steal the 2020 election from Trump.

Another technology provider, Dominion Voting Systems, has filed similar litigation against various defendants.

Without ruling on the merits, Cohen found a "substantial basis" for the claim that Fox News "turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth."

In a 61-page decision, Cohen said Giuliani's "barrage" of criticism, including that Smartmatic fixed elections in Venezuela and was up to its "old tricks" on election night, justified letting some Smartmatic claims against him proceed.

But the judge said an alleged misstatement by Pirro was not defamatory and that he lacked jurisdiction to consider claims against Powell.

In a statement on behalf of the Fox News defendants, the network said it planned to appeal, while welcoming the dismissal of claims against Pirro.

Fox News also said it planned to challenge Smartmatic's "baseless" claims by filing a counterclaim for fees and costs "to prevent the full-blown assault on the First Amendment which stands in stark contrast to the highest tradition of American journalism."

Lawyers for Giuliani did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Powell's lawyer Howard Kleinhendler said his client was "confident that any subsequent litigation by Smartmatic or others will reach the same result."

Smartmatic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.