The half-a**ed fact checks Fox ran on three different programs may not be enough to stop an extremely costly defamation lawsuit threatened by Smartmatic, a voting technology company Fox has falsely accused of rigging the 2020 election.
As I’ve previously posted, Fox aired three identical, bizarre, kinda sorta fact checks on Lou Dobbs Tonight, Justice with Judge Jeanine Pirro and Sunday Morning Futures last Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the wake of the threatened lawsuit. None of the hosts partook in what was a Q&A between an unseen Fox questioner and an elections expert. There was no outright retraction or apology.
There’s a real question as to what the effort accomplished for Fox. According to The New York Times’ Ben Smith, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica is still very seriously considering a lawsuit. He seems to have a very good case. He also has a very good lawyer. Smith wrote:
In an era of brazen political lies, Mr. Mugica has emerged as an unlikely figure with the power to put the genie back in the bottle. Last week, his lawyer sent scathing letters to the Fox News Channel, Newsmax and OAN demanding that they immediately, forcefully clear his company’s name — and that they retain documents for a planned defamation lawsuit. He has, legal experts say, an unusually strong case. And his new lawyer is J. Erik Connolly, who not coincidentally won the largest settlement in the history of American media defamation in 2017, at least $177 million, for a beef producer whose “lean finely textured beef” was described by ABC News as “pink slime.”
Smith said on Monday, during an MSNBC appearance, that Smartmatic's suit as well as a threatened one by Dominion against the Trump campaign and lawyer Sidney Powell are not just about clearing their names. "I think that they see dollar signs and think there's quite a bit of money to be wrung from these companies for damaging their reputations," he added.
And yet, the legal costs may purchase something for Fox in the long run - the demise of its upstart competitors. Smith explains:
These are legal threats any company, even a giant like Fox Corporation, would take seriously. And they could be fatal to the dream of a new “Trump TV,” a giant new media company in the president’s image, and perhaps contributing to his bottom line. Newsmax and OAN would each like to become that, and are both burning money to steal ratings from Fox, executives from both companies have acknowledged. They will need to raise significantly more money, or to sell quickly to investors, to build a Fox-style multibillion-dollar empire. But outstanding litigation with the potential of an enormous verdict will be enough to scare away most buyers.
A key point here is that Fox can handle a drawn out, expensive lawsuit. For Newsmax and OAN, burning cash and looking for investors, it would be existential. https://t.co/lr3JKuXE40— Ben Smith (@benyt) December 21, 2020
You can watch Smith discuss the matter below, from MSNBC’s December 21, 2020 Deadline: Whitehouse.
My instincts say that this may well close down OANN and Newsmax, and that’s not a bad thing. But don’t think that this would change the Right Wing media landscape. If those two cockroaches get stamped out, there will be another 10 that will pop up tomorrow. Breitbart will expand, or Daily Caller will expand, or Sinclair will fill in the gap. The propagandists will just move over to whatever the existing outlet is at the moment. “The First” is another upstart operation, airing home-built “news” shows from Buck Sexton and Dana Loesch (video of their radio shows) and giving a one hour primetime spotlight to disgraced Bill O’Reilly.
I don’t expect this will really affect Fox News all that much, as they have deeper pockets. But these will be significant payouts for sure. John McKee is correct. And this will not be the pittances of a few thousand bucks that were tossed off to Nick Sandmann and Lin Wood by the Post and CNN to make them go away. These will be major settlements.