Smartmatic demands retractions from Fox, Newsmax, OAN

Smartmatic, the election technology company that has become embroiled in unfounded conspiracy theories about rigged voting in the 2020 presidential race, on Monday said it is issuing legal notices to three conservative media outlets demanding retractions “for publishing false and defamatory statements.”

The Florida-based company has been targeted by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who is leading the Trump campaign’s long-shot attempts to undo Joe Biden’s projected presidential victory.

Smartmatic in a press release said its letters to Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network make clear that the company “is reserving all its legal rights and remedies, including its right to pursue defamation and disparagement claims.”

The legal notice to Fox, shared with CNBC, accuses the news outlet of engaging “in a concerted disinformation campaign against Smartmatic.”

That 20-page letter cites dozens of claims, most of which were made on Fox’s air by Giuliani and attorney Sidney Powell, who was formerly affiliated with the campaign and has filed multiple unsuccessful lawsuits alleging fraud in key swing states won by Biden.

The majority of those statements were delivered in mid-November on programs hosted by Maria Bartiromo or Lou Dobbs, both of whom are also accused of making their own defamatory claims about Smartmatic. Additionally, the letter includes references to statements made on a Fox program hosted by Jeanine Pirro, along with one statement made by Fox host Jesse Watters.

“This is the first in a series of steps we are taking to defend our company against baseless attacks that are intended to damage our reputation as a means to undermine confidence in election outcomes,” Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica said in a statement to CNBC.

“We stand to lose billions of dollars in business in the coming years because of these baseless attacks on our company,” Mugica’s statement said.

Smartmatic’s counsel will also be sending letters to Giuliani and Powell, according to a Frequently Asked Questions page that a company spokeswoman said will soon be published on its website.

Smartmatic has been accused of, among other claims, being in tow with Dominion Voting Software to cheat in the November presidential election in favor of Biden.

The company has flatly denied that alleged connection. “There are no ties between Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic – plain and simple,” the company says in a fact-checking page on its website. While Dominion software was used in multiple states and counties in the 2020 election, Smartmatic says it only operated in Los Angeles County.

Dominion has also denied various claims made against it. Trump himself voiced suspicion about Dominion in particular in a 46-minute-long video posted to his social media in early December.

“On top of everything else, we have a company that’s very suspect. Its name is Dominion. With the turn of a dial or the change of a chip, you could press a button for Trump and the vote goes to Biden. What kind of a system is this?” Trump said in that video.

The president is refusing to concede to Biden, despite his campaign and allies losing dozens of court battles, including a critical recent loss in the U.S. Supreme Court, aimed at overturning the election. Trump is falsely claiming he won the race just days before Monday, when Electoral College electors began casting votes in their respective states to make Biden’s win official.

Smartmatic’s letter to Fox also identifies numerous other claims and implications as “false and defamatory,” including that the company is corruptly tied to Venezuela and that the company sent U.S. votes to foreign countries to be tabulated.

The letter to Fox says that Smartmatic “has no involvement in the tabulation and results reporting processes,” adding, “The technology is not controlled by a server located outside the United States and no votes were or could be transmitted outside the United States.”

Smartmatic’s founders were born in Venezuela, but the company itself was founded in Boca Raton, Florida, and says it does not have any current operations in Venezuela.

“Fox News had no right to defame my client when covering the 2020 U.S. election,” lawyer J. Erik Connolly of Benesch Law said in the letter.

“Smartmatic demands a full and complete retraction of all false and defamatory statements,” Connolly wrote, adding that such a retraction “must be done with the same intensity and level of coverage that you used to defame the company in the first place.”

“This letter serves as notice of potential legal claims against Fox News, its reporters, anchors, producers, and on-air guests by my client.”

Spokespersons for Fox and OAN did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment on Smartmatic’s action. Powell, Giuliani and the Trump campaign also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Newsmax, in a statement, said that “Newsmax itself has never made a claim of impropriety about Smartmatic, its ownership or software.”

“Individuals, including plaintiff’s attorneys, Congressmen and others, have appeared on Newsmax raising questions about the company and its voting software, citing legal documents or previously published reports about Smartmatic,” Newsmax’s statement said.

“As any major media outlet, we provide a forum for public concerns and discussion. In the past we have welcomed Smartmatic and its representatives to counter such claims they believe to be inaccurate and will continue to do so.”

In a statement accompanying the press release Monday morning, Mugica said the three news outlets “have no evidence to support their attacks on Smartmatic because there is no evidence.”

“This campaign is an attack on election systems and election workers in an effort to depress confidence in future elections and potentially counter the will of the voters, not just here, but in democracies around the world,” Mugica’s statement said.

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