Without explicitly addressing their prior coverage, Fox News and Newsmax both aired segments over the past few days walking back a subset of election fraud claims centering around voting machines manufacturer Smartmatic, which earlier this month delivered legal notices to a trio of conservative networks for promoting baseless conspiracy theories about the company.
In a three-minute segment aired on three shows that previously played host to some of the more zany election fraud claims coming from Trump’s advocates—Fox Business’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” and Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo’s “Sunday Morning Futures” and Jeanine Pirro’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine”—Fox News appeared to retract allegations made against Smartmatic.
In each pre-recorded segment, entitled “CLOSER LOOK AT CLAIMS ABOUT SMARTMATIC,” an unnamed voice is heard questioning Open Source Election Technology Institute Director Eddie Perez, labeled a “leading” authority on open source software for elections, who fact checks false claims about Smartmatic, including some that have previously made their way onto Fox’s airwaves as serious allegations.
This is very bizarre. Lou Dobbs ran a segment tonight basically debunking his own lies about Smartmatic voting machines pic.twitter.com/FDM91SPtT1
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 19, 2020
Perez told CNN after the fact that he was not warned the interview would focus on Smartmatic and found the format to be “strange”: “I was anticipating a broader discussion about the debate around the election [and] election integrity.”
While the segment appears to be a legal retraction in response to Smartmatic’s demands, a spokesperson for Fox News would not confirm whether this was an agreement made with Smartmatic or a direct response to their request, characterizing the videos as fact-checks, and Smartmatic told Forbes it could not comment “due to potential litigation.”
Newsmax also aired its own apparent response to Smartmatic’s demands, in which host John Tabacco sought to “clarify” the network’s coverage, stressing that it “has not reported as true certain claims made about these companies.
Newsmax just aired this note to “clarify” its coverage of Smartmatic and Dominion. pic.twitter.com/I5XZ7CQpAk
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) December 21, 2020
In the segment, and in a corresponding article published to its website, Newsmax debunked claims that had previously been floated on its platforms by hosts and guests (such as “Smartmatic is a U.S. company and not owned by the Venezuelan government”) but again did not label this as a response or retraction, as initially requested by Smartmatic.
“There are certain facts our viewers and readers should be aware of,” said Tabacco, rattling off common fraud claims about Smartmatic and fellow conspiracy theory target Dominion Voter Systems that he said there is “no evidence” to support. “Dominion has stated its company has no ownership relationship with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s family, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s family, the Clinton family, Hugo Chavez, or the government of Venezuela.
“Fox News has engaged in a concerted disinformation campaign against Smartmatic,” charged the company in its 20-page demand letter sent to Fox News Media. “Fox News told its millions of viewers and readers that Smartmatic was founded by [the late Venezuelan President] Hugo Chávez, that its software was designed to fix elections, and that Smartmatic conspired with others to defraud the American people and fix the 2020 U.S. election by changing, inflating, and deleting votes.”
Not only has Smartmatic vehemently denied these claims, but it has emphasized its relatively limited involvement in the 2020 election as a contractor for the process in Los Angeles County, Calif.
Smartmatic—one of two voting machine manufacturers that’s been attacked by Trump and his allies for supposedly rigging the 2020 election—demanded retractions and delivered legal notices to Fox News, One America News Network and Newsmax earlier this month for statements made by hosts, including Lou Dobbs, as well as guests, like pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who has been the source of some of the post-election periods more outlandish claims. In its demand letter, Smartmatic stipulated that Fox News must make its corrections on “multiple occasions” during prime-time shows to “match the attention and audience targeted with the original defamatory publications.” One American News Network did not respond to questions from Forbes about whether it will retract its stories.
The other target, Dominion Voting Systems, has also requested a retraction from President Trump’s informal legal team led by Powell.
118. That’s the number of times Smartmatic has been mentioned on Fox News and Fox Business collectively, according to tracker TVEyes. Dominion has been mentioned 792 times.