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Lou Dobbs, and the most problematic claims Trump allies made about voting machines

Election technology company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News on Feb. 4. (Video: Reuters, Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Lou Dobbs is out at Fox Business, just a day after the voting machine company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against him, the cable news network and several purveyors of the debunked theory that its technology was used to commit massive voter fraud.

The ouster of Dobbs, who was Fox Business’s top-rated host, is merely the latest evidence of the very real impact of the legal threats from Smartmatic and another voting machine company, Dominion.

After the initial threats were made, Fox News and Fox Business ran deposition-esque segments on the shows of the three anchors now sued by Smartmatic — Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro — downplaying the evidence for such claims. Newsmax read a statement on air saying pretty much the same thing, and it has since awkwardly tried to shut down MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell when he made such claims. One America News has ridiculed its far-right competitor for “censoring” Lindell, but it has quietly removed several stories about Dominion from its website. And the station carrying Rudolph W. Giuliani’s radio show on Thursday played a disclaimer distancing itself from claims made on the show, to Giuliani’s chagrin.

Also reinforcing the potential legal jeopardy: Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel recently acknowledged that, during a particularly far-flung news conference held by Giuliani and then-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell at the RNC, she was “concerned it was happening in my building” and thought about “what is the liability of the RNC if these allegations are made and unfounded?”

We’re about to find out — not for the RNC, which hasn’t been sued, but for the parties it hosted and for the media companies that provided often-credulous airwaves to them. Along with Smartmatic suing Fox and its three hosts, both it and Dominion are suing Giuliani and Powell. And Dominion has signaled its legal action could expand significantly.

The question from there is how legally problematic the claims were. Defamation litigation is intensive and requires meeting certain thresholds. Those who made such claims themselves, for instance, could face more jeopardy than those who provided a forum for them to do so. Some claims involved citing others who made allegations or simply raised the theories as questions, while others more forcefully and definitively alleged nefarious activity. Dobbs arguably erred more toward actually embracing the theories than his fellow Fox hosts, for example.

(Fox News said before Dobbs’s ouster: “Fox News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion. We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend against this meritless lawsuit in court.”)

Given the sheer volume of claims — many of which are detailed in Smartmatic’s lawsuit — I thought it was worth looking at some of the biggest and most consequential that could be at issue in the coming litigation.

Below are a few of them, virtually none of which have been substantiated in courts. Most of them have been debunked by fact checks. And many of them will be parsed extensively in the lawsuits.

What Rudy Giuliani has said

“They were founded as a company to fix elections. They have a terrible record and they are extremely hackable.” (Nov. 13, Fox Business)

“They [committed fraud] absolutely in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Republicans were shut out from enough of the county so they could accomplish what Smartmatic wanted to do. And what you — that pattern that they have there, we have evidence that that’s the same pattern Smartmatic used in other elections in which they were disqualified. In other words, this is their pattern of activity.” (Nov. 15, Fox News — Maria Bartiromo’s show)

“It’s Smartmatic, which is a company that was founded in 2005 in Venezuela for the specific purpose of fixing elections. That’s their expertise: how to fix elections.” (Nov. 18, Fox Business — Lou Dobbs’s show)

On Smartmatic (Nov. 15, Fox News — Bartiromo’s show):

BARTIROMO: One source says that the key point to understand is that the Smartmatic system has a back door … that allows the votes to be mirrored and monitored, allowing an intervening party a real-time understanding of how many votes will be needed to gain an electoral advantage. Are you saying the states that use that software did that?
GIULIANI: I can prove that they did it in Michigan. I can prove it with witnesses. We are investigating the rest. ... Now, they didn’t do it everywhere. They did it in big cities where they have corrupt machines that will protect them.

“They were being notified by Smartmatic in Frankfurt, [Germany], that Biden was way behind and they better come up with a lot more ballots.” (Nov. 19, Fox News — Sean Hannity’s show)

What Sidney Powell has said

“It’s the Smartmatic and Dominion systems that were built to do this very thing, for changing the results of elections.” (Nov. 16, Mark Levin’s radio show)

“And President Trump won by not just hundreds of thousands of votes, but by millions of votes — that were shifted by this software that was designed expressly for that purpose. We have sworn witness testimony of why the software was designed. It was designed to rig elections. … It was exported internationally for profit by the people that are behind Smartmatic and Dominion. They did this on purpose. It was calculated. They have done it before.” (Nov. 15, Fox News — Bartiromo’s show)

“We’ve detected voting irregularities that are inexplicable and aligned with these problems in other states that think they have valid systems, but the people who bought the Dominion system for sure knew exactly what they were getting.” (Nov. 15, Fox News — Bartiromo’s show)

“We now have reams and reams of actual documents from Smartmatic and Dominion, including evidence that they planned and executed all of this. … We have evidence of how they flip the votes, how it was designed to flip the votes.” (Dec. 10, Fox Business — Dobbs’s show)

“The software itself was created with so many variables and so many back doors that can be hooked up to the Internet or a thumb drive stuck in it or whatever. But one of its most characteristic features is its ability to flip votes. It can set and run an algorithm that probably ran all over the country to take a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flip them to President Biden. … And that’s what caused them to have to shut down in the states they shut down in.” (Nov. 18, Fox Business — Dobbs’s show)

“People can admittedly go in and change whatever they want. They can set the ratio of votes from one thing to another. They can say that a Biden vote counts as 1.25, and a Trump vote counts as 0.75, and those may be the numbers that were actually used here. It’s not just the swing states that were affected; the algorithm was likely run across the country to affect the entire election.” (Nov. 19 news conference at the RNC)

“We’re talking about the alteration and changes and millions of votes, some being dumped that were for President Trump, some being flipped that were for President Trump, computers being overwritten to ignore signatures — all kinds of different means of manipulating the Dominion and Smartmatic software, that, of course, we would not expect Dominion or Smartmatic to admit.” (Nov. 14, Fox News — Jeanine Pirro’s show)

What Lou Dobbs has said

“I am alarmed because of what is occurring in plain sight during this 2020 election for president of the United States. The circumstances and events are eerily reminiscent of what happened with Smartmatic software electronically changing votes in the 2013 presidential election in Venezuela.” (Nov. 18, Fox Business)

“And this president is demonstrating, once again, he is the wrong guy to cross — the wrong guy to think you can overthrow, upend and somehow stop with a vicious campaign, whether it’s verbal, whether its physical, whether it is what we have seen here: a cyberattack on our election, those voting machines and software.” (Nov. 21, Fox News — “Watters World”)

What Maria Bartiromo has said

“Well, I mean, who’s to stop this from happening again? I mean, if you’ve got Democrats in charge from here on out, they’re in charge of the machines, you’ll never see a Republican in the White House again.” (Nov. 17, Fox Business)

“Look, I want to show this graphic of the swing states that were using Dominion and this software, the Smartmatic software. … The voting machines were used, Dominion voting machines were used in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And I have a graphic showing the states where they stopped counting, which I thought was also strange — to stop counting in the middle of election night.” (Nov. 15, Fox News)

What Jeanine Pirro has said

“The president’s lawyers [are] alleging a company called Dominion, which they say started in Venezuela with Cuban money and with the assistance of Smartmatic software, a back door is capable of flipping votes. And the president’s lawyers alleging that American votes in a presidential election are actually counted in a foreign country. These are serious allegations, but the media has no interest in any of this. But you and I do, as we should, because 73 million Americans voted for Donald Trump.” (Nov. 21, Fox News)

What One America News has said

“Election systems across the country are found to have deleted millions of votes cast for President Trump. According to an unaudited analysis of data obtained from Edison Research, states using Dominion Voting Systems may have switched as many as 435,000 votes from President Trump to Joe Biden, and the author also finds another 2.7 million Trump votes appear to have been deleted by Dominion, including almost 1 million truckloads in Pennsylvania alone.” (Lilia Fifield, Nov. 12)

“In the early 2000s, the election technology market had over 20 competitors. Twenty years later, Dominion and two others dominated the voting technology market in America. This is a problem — especially if their antifa-drenched engineers are hellbent on deleting half of America’s voice.” (Chanel Rion, Nov. 21)

“But Dominion captured headlines when it was discovered it had ‘glitched’ 6,000 votes, giving Biden a fraudulent win. This was a not an isolated event.” (Rion)

What Mike Lindell has said

“I want Dominion to put up their lawsuit, because we have 100 percent evidence that China and other countries used their machines to steal the election.” (Jan. 18)

“The biggest fraud is the Dominion machines.” (Dec. 22, Newsmax show hosted by Sebastian Gorka, who cut Lindell off)

“Biden got, like, 1.2 votes for every vote, and our president got, like, 0.66, okay? When that happened, all of us voting — it was probably 80 million votes who came in for our great president — and because of you, guess what? They all broke the algorithms and the machines, so there wasn’t enough time, … so they had to quick-stop everything, because he would’ve won the election in spite of the fraud.” (Dec. 12 speech in Washington)

This post has been updated with the Dobbs news.