Fox News, purveyors of multiple conspiracies (for example, about the murder of Democratic staffer Seth Rich, whose family settled with the network out of court), was sued on Thursday, along with three of its hosts (Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro) and two lawyers of former president Donald Trump (Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell), for allegedly defaming voting technology company Smartmatic. (Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.)
The complaint provides a breezy read:
The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States. The election was not stolen, rigged, or fixed. These are facts. They are demonstrable and irrefutable.Defendants have always known these facts. They knew Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 U.S. election. They knew the election was not stolen. They knew the election was not rigged or fixed. . . .Defendants were disappointed. But they also saw an opportunity to capitalize on President Trump’s popularity by inventing a story. Defendants decided to tell people that the election was stolen from President Trump and Vice President Pence.
The complaint explains that the defendants used the software company to cook up a villain, and that the motives were money and personal gain. (“Ms. Powell used the story to raise money and enrich herself. Mr. Giuliani used the story to guarantee himself a flow of funds from the sitting President and to sell products.”)
In words that mirror those from the House impeachment managers, the complaints adds, “The story, of course, did more than just make Defendants’ money and jeopardize Smartmatic’s survival. The story undermined people’s belief in democracy. The story turned neighbor against neighbor. The story led a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.” Smartmatic’s lawyers argue: “Enough. Facts matter. Truth matters. Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to spread disinformation about Smartmatic. They lied. And they did so knowingly and intentionally.” The company “seeks to hold them accountable for those lies and for the damage that their lies have caused.”
Accountability. It is back in vogue this week.
Meanwhile, the impeachment managers offered in a letter to Trump the chance to testify under oath at the Senate trial next week. The letter explains, “Presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton both provided testimony while in office — and the Supreme Court held just last year that you were not immune from legal process while serving as President — so there is no doubt that you can testify in these proceedings.” Unsurprisingly, he turned down the invitation. The managers, as they indicated, will therefore urge the senators to make the “adverse inference” that his denials laid out in his defense brief are false. Trump wants to deny the election outcome? He wants to deny he strong-armed the Georgia secretary of state to change the election results? Fine. Let him say it under oath. Otherwise, take his silence as an admission.
The trial is a proceeding to hold Trump accountable, but also to hold Senate Republicans accountable if they keep harboring and enabling the former president. Most followed his lead and echoed the Big Lie that the election was stolen. Most refused to recognize President Biden’s victory for weeks. Some even engaged in a seditious attempt to overthrow the election, even after the rioters were cleared from the Capitol. One even raised his fist in solidarity with the violent mob. Republicans will be held accountable for their refusal to stand up for democracy and for the security of their own colleagues.
And then there is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). She, too, is being held accountable. As a result of her QAnon rantings and anti-Semitic conspiracies, her verbal assault on a Parkland shooting survivor and her enthusiasm for the assassination of colleagues, she lost her committee seats. Only 11 Republicans were able to find the spine to vote with Democrats to strip her of those assignments.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also loses what is left of his credibility. At her weekly news conference on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared that she remains “profoundly concerned” that Republican leadership would award such a person (Greene) an assignment on the education committee.
Pelosi added: “It’s just so unfortunate. You would think that the Republican leadership in the Congress would have some sense of responsibility to this institution, as they did when they did not seat Representative King of Iowa two years ago.” She mused, "For some reason, they have chosen not to go down that path, even though [House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer] gave the leader McCarthy, sufficient notice that this was a path we would follow.” Since McCarthy won’t be responsible, the speaker explained, it is up to Democrats “to uphold a standard for the House of Representatives that respects the institution in which we serve and does no harm to it institutionally or to our members, staff, visitors personally.” With 11 defections on the vote to remove Greene from committees, McCarthy looks all the more spineless and inept.
Fox News, its on-air personalities, the ex-president’s lawyers, the ex-president, Senate Republicans, Greene and House Republican leadership can all run, but they cannot hide. They are being held up to the harsh light of reality. No wonder so many Republicans are in a snit about “process”; it’s the last refuge of malign actors who do not want to be held accountable for their conduct.