Dominion’s $1.6bn defamation case against Newsmax will go to trial weeks before Election Day

The network is accused of promoting a range of outright falsehoods about the voting machine company

Alex Woodward
Tuesday 19 September 2023 16:29 BST
Newsmax guest hijacks segment to shame network for promotion of Trump election lies

A voting machine company that reached an historic settlement with Fox News to avert a blockbuster defamation trial is scheduled to return to a Delaware courtroom next year against another right-wing network.

Dominion Voting Systems sued Newsmax in the aftermath of 2020 elections after the network repeatedly aired false claims that the company rigged the presidential election against Donald Trump in an alleged effort to boost ratings.

Barring a potential settlement, the trial is scheduled to begin in September 2024, putting the former president’s bogus statements at the centre of a month-long trial weeks before Election Day.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis – who presided over court proceedings in the case against Fox – also is presiding over the Newsmax case.

“We are pleased to see this process moving forward to hold Newsmax accountable,” a spokesperson for the voting machines company said in a statement to The Independent.

Newsmax, which has continued to deny wrongdoing, unsuccessfully tried to get the lawsuit dismissed last year, asserting confidence that the network will “ultimately prevail given the strong First Amendment protections provided to ensure free speech and a free press.”

The network is accused of broadcasting a range of election misinformation and outright falsehoods surrounding Dominion, including false claims that the company was created in Venezuela by Hugo Chavez and “has a long history of rigging elections,” that its software “altered and flipped” votes for Mr Trump, and that the “entire election was hacked” to support Joe Biden’s victory.

The network amplified those claims in an effort to court Mr Trump’s “public stamp of approval, attention, and admiration,” according to the complaint, which was filed in August 2021 alongside similar lawsuits against far-right network One America News Network and former CEO and election conspiracy theorist Patrick Byrne.

Newsmax built an “entire brand” out of such claims, according to the lawsuit, which accuses Trump-applied figures Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Lindell, among others, who also separately faced lawsuits for bogus statements about the company.

“But Newsmax went further, helping create and nurture the false and fabricated Dominion narrative by endorsing these known falsehoods as the ‘truth’ and falsely claiming the lies had corroborated Newsmax’s own ‘investigation,’” according to the complaint.

The network has argued that its on-air personalities and coverage were merely reporting statements from Mr Trump and his allies. But, according to the complaint, Newsmax made the “intentional and knowing choice to depict – and then publicize, endorse, and fuel – the lies about Dominion as truth, creating and promoting an alternate reality that duped millions of Americans” into believing that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr Trump.

“It repeatedly broadcast the lies of facially unreliable sources – lies which Newsmax itself adopted, endorsed, promoted, and manufactured” to court Mr Trump’s approval while boosting ratings boosts and profit windfalls,” Dominion’s attorneys argue.

“In short, this lawsuit is not about Newsmax covering President Trump,” the lawsuit states. “[I]t is about Newsmax courting President Trump, by feeding its audience a torrent of lies that supported the false narrative that President Trump won the election.”

Smartmatic, another voting machine company falsely accused of rigging votes, also has sued Newsmax and others in the wake of the 2020 election.

In April, moments before a trial was set to begin, Fox broked a settlement with the voting machines company for more than $787m, avoiding one of the largest defamation trials in American history.

One America News Network and network personality Chanel Rion also recently settled a defamation suit from a now-former Dominion executive for an undisclosed sum.

In late 2020, Newsmax began airing a disclaimer that there was “no evidence” that Dominion or Smartmatic “manipulated votes” in the election.

The Independent has requested comment from Newsmax and attorneys for Dominion.

Newsmax – which markets itself to a “core audience” of “boomer” Americans – saw a brief ratings spike after Fox parted with Tucker Carlson in the wake of the Dominion settlement.

A 2024 trial surrounding the election lies that circulated within Trumpworld and on the networks that supported him could arrive as the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination for president faces state and federal criminal prosecutions for his own alleged efforts to undermine and overturn 2020 results.

Mr Trump’s election lies are at the centre of two sprawling criminal cases in Washington DC and in Georgia targeting his alleged criminal conspiracies to influence state and local officials to unlawfully reject election outcomes and retain power at whatever cost.

The former president, who has pleaded not guilty in all criminal cases against him, has characterized himself as a victim of political prosecution.

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