Among the many wild conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, few rank as high when it comes to both baselessness and reach as those involving voting machines. The theory that voting machines were programmed to steal the election from President Donald Trump had the benefit, while being utterly without merit, of at least being simple and easy for people to grasp. There were big swings in the vote totals! (Because Biden did a lot better in mail balloting, which were often added to the totals en masse!)

Unfortunately for its proponents, these theories carried one very significant drawback: legal liability. While broad claims of voter fraud are relatively unspecific and involve many potential perpetrators, there are relatively few voting-machine companies. Claiming such things means impugning them specifically and creating a situation in which your baseless claims can lead to calculable personal and business harm, which is important when it comes to suing someone for defamation.

And sue they have. The result: Many if not most of the high-profile purveyors of such claims have since backed off.

Video pushed by President Trump fails to support the claims of voter fraud it alleges happened on Election Day in Fulton County, Ga. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

One by one, they’ve succumbed to legal pressure by issuing corrections, clarifications or apologies. While some true believers of these theories viewed such lawsuits as opportunities to prove malfeasance once and for all, through the discovery process, those facing penalties have repeatedly left them high and dry — almost as if these theories were completely baseless in the first place and they didn’t have a leg to stand on.

The latest legal target to tuck its tail is the conservative cable news channel Newsmax, which released a statement Friday night apologizing to Eric Coomer, a top official at Dominion Voting Systems, who filed a suit against Newsmax in December. The Post’s Amy Wang reports that it appears to be part of some sort of settlement, though the terms have not been released.

But it’s not even the first time Newsmax has sought to walk back or water down some of the voting-machine claims made on its airways. And meanwhile, just a few days before, a lawsuit from voters claiming a vast conspiracy involving Dominion and various state officials in swing states was dismissed after the plaintiffs withdrew their claims.

Below is a timeline of how such claims against both Dominion and another voting-machine company, Smartmatic, have been effectively disowned.

Dec. 18-20: Fox News and Fox Business Network run a deposition-esque segment featuring an expert dismissing various voting-machine claims on three shows that had featured such claims, after Smartmatic issued a legal demand letter. (Fox would later sideline a host of one of the shows, Lou Dobbs, despite his show being the highest-rated one on FBN.)

Dec. 20-21: Newsmax posts a statement, which a host reads on-air, clarifying that the channel has not proved such claims, while arguing that it also hadn’t stated the claims as true.

Feb. 2: Newsmax attempts to stop MyPillow CEO and Trump supporter Mike Lindell from making claims about Dominion during an interview. A host reads a legal disclaimer while talking over Lindell and later walking off the set when Lindell refused to yield. “We just want to let people know that there’s nothing substantive that we have seen,” the host says.

Jan. 15: The right-wing American Thinker blog issues a full-throated apology and retraction of voting-machine stories written by four authors, calling the sources behind them “discredited” and saying their “statements are completely false and have no basis in fact.”

Jan. 20: It is reported that One America News, despite criticizing its competitor Newsmax for caving to legal pressure, removed a number of stories about voting machines from its website, without formally retracting them.

Feb. 1: In a New York Times story, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel acknowledges that she worried about legal liability from the RNC hosting a news conference in which Trump lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell made various unproven claims about the election.

Feb. 4: WABC, the radio station that hosts Giuliani’s show, runs a disclaimer distancing itself from claims made on his show. Giuliani says he was unaware the disclaimer would be aired, labeling it “rather insulting.”

Feb. 5: While airing Lindell’s documentary, OAN runs an extensive disclaimer. Despite Lindell claiming “absolute proof” — and that being the actual title of the documentary — OAN says claims in the documentary “are not intended to be taken or interpreted by the viewer as established facts.”

March 22: Powell files a motion to dismiss Dominion’s lawsuit against her. But rather than standing by her claims, she says “reasonable people” wouldn’t take them as fact and that she was merely acting as a legal advocate. This despite Powell having said repeatedly that she had irrefutable proof backing up her claims, frequently labeling the release of such information the “Kraken.”

April 28: A lawsuit brought by eight voters claiming a massive conspiracy involving Dominion and various state officials is dismissed. A judge dismisses the case because the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to bring it, but also notes there are myriad reasons to dismiss the case and adds that the plaintiffs “have voluntarily dismissed the claims against the various state officials” in the alleged conspiracy.

April 30: Newsmax issues its apology to Coomer as part of an apparent settlement with Dominion. The channel disowns claims made about Coomer that he interfered with voting machines and had ties to antifa. “Newsmax subsequently found no evidence that such allegations were true,” the apology says. “Many of the states whose results were contested by the Trump campaign after the November 2020 election have conducted extensive recounts and audits, and each of these states certified the results as legal and final.”