Dominion Voting Systems sued Newsmax and One America News Network on Tuesday, accusing the far-right media organizations of defamation for pushing far-fetched conspiracy theories that the election technology company rigged the 2020 presidential election.
Tuesday’s lawsuit against OAN accused it of engaging “in a race to the bottom with Fox and other outlets such as Newsmax to spread false and manufactured stories about election fraud.”
“Dominion quickly became the focus of this downward spiral of lies, as each broadcaster attempted to outdo the others by making the lies more outrageous, spreading them further, and endorsing them as strongly as possible,” the lawsuit said. It added that although the lies promoted by OAN were “verifiably false,” they were still “devastating” to Dominion’s reputation.
Dominion also accused OAN hosts Chanel Rion and Christina Bobb of amplifying and spreading false claims about Dominion. The network “deputized” Rion “as an in-house spokesperson for all Dominion-related content,” the lawsuit said.
Newsmax, the right-wing outlet owned and run by Donald Trump’s friend Chris Ruddy, was slow to acknowledge the reality of President Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election. Instead, it hosted Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, two attorneys who worked on Trump’s legal team challenging the election results.
Both Powell and Giuliani have promoted conspiracy theories that the election was marred by fraud on the part of Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, a rival election technology company. The two lawyers claimed the companies developed a way of falsifying election results under the regime of now-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
OAN doubled down on conspiracy theories about Dominion
Tuesday’s is the latest in a series of lawsuits Dominion Voting Systems is filing against people and entities that pushed the conspiracy theory that it manipulated the results of the 2020 election, a myth the company says has done enormous damage to its business and to US democracy itself.
Dominion began in January by suing Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who claimed Dominion has secret ties to the regime of now-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and developed technology that “flipped” votes from then-President Donald Trump to now-President Joe Biden. Dominion also sued MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who pushed versions of that falsehood.
OAN has been a fixture of the far-right in the Trump era and rose to a new level of prominence as it refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory in the 2020 election even as other conservative media organizations, like Fox News, did.
Rion hosted a 30-minute segment called “Dominionizing the Vote” which “branded OAN’s disinformation and defamation campaign against Dominion into a single catchy phrase that is now synonymous with fraudulently flipping votes,” Dominion’s lawsuit said. In the segment, Rion described Dominion executive Eric Coomer as an “Antifa-drenched engineer hell-bent on deleting half of America’s votes” (he isn’t, and Coomer is bringing his own lawsuits) and featured QAnon advocate Ron Watkins as a cybersecurity expert (he has no experience in election security and did not offer evidence that he analyzed Dominion machines). Trump himself tweeted out the video before Twitter shut down his account.
Dominion sent OAN, as well as dozens of other organizations and individuals, document retention letters warning of lawsuits in the weeks after the election. While Fox News and Newsmax pulled back on far-fetched election claims and aired videos attesting to the legitimacy of the results, OAN doubled down. In letters obtained by Insider, it warned Dominion of a countersuit and asked them to retain documents of their own, referencing the same far-fetched conspiracy theories about Venezuela.
At the same time, OAN quietly scrubbed its website of references to election conspiracy theories, Dominion, and Smartmatic, another election technology company.
Dominion says allowing Powell and Giuliani to spout their false theories unchallenged on Newsmax’s programs amounts to defamation. It had warned of lawsuits in December in document retention letters sent to Newsmax’s executive leadership and to Greg Kelly, one of the channel’s hosts.
After Smartmatic warned of a lawsuit, also in December, Newsmax aired a statement to “clarify” that there was, in fact, no evidence of widespread voter fraud or election manipulation, and that Smartmatic had no ties to Venezuela.
Asked whether Dominion would be satisfied by a similar statement, Tom Clare, Dominion’s defamation attorney, laughed and said “no” in an interview with Insider.
“If you accuse somebody falsely on a primetime slot or in the host’s own voice or in a 10-minute segment, then you need to have equal prominence and equal dignity into the retraction and apology,” Clare said in a December interview.
Dominion and Smartmatic are suing election conspiracy theorists
Dominion suggested in its lawsuit against Lindell that it would soon sue OAN. OAN had aired “Absolute Proof,” a conspiracy theory-filled “docu-movie” Lindell produced in an attempt to change the results of the election. Dominion attorney Thomas Clare said the company produced a “barely legible” disclaimer for the video that was “a calculated attempt to avoid defamation liability for the lies it was about to knowingly broadcast to a global audience.”
“OAN was fully aware that Lindell’s ‘docu-movie’ was full of lies, but – like Fox News, Newsmax, and others – was content to deceive its viewers in exchange for ad dollars,” Clare wrote in the lawsuit.