Smartmatic trial against Newsmax gets trial date

A defamation case against conservative outlet Newsmax TV over its reporting of lies about 2020 election voting equipment has a court date.

Voting technology company Smartmatic is suing the company for falsely reporting that its voting machines and systems helped rig the election against Donald Trump. Dominion Voting Systems, a similar company, has also sued Newsmax and other conservative outlets separately.

This latest trial will start Sept. 24, 2024, putting it just months before the 2024 general election, though it’s not clear how long it could run or when a verdict might be reached. The slot was actually meant initially for Dominion’s suit against the network, but legal delays on that side meant that Smartmatic’s trial was moved.

It’s possible the two sides could reach a settlement.

While these latest lawsuits against Newsmax stem from the same false claims of election interference that got conservative cable giant Fox into trouble — to the tune of a $787 million settlement with Dominion — there are some distinctions.

Collectively, conservative media propagated various unfounded claims that Dominion and Smartmatic voting machines helping flip the 2020 election for President Joe Biden. These largely centered on conspiracy theories about votes being changed, lost, erased or otherwise manipulated.

There were also claims that the companies had ties to high-profile political figures, foreign countries or used supposedly nefarious software or other components. 

Numerous investigations, audits and other actions taken by officials from both political parties have proven that both companies’ equipment accurately counted votes in various jurisdictions across the country. In cases where errors were reported, they were later shown to be the result of human error and the corrected data did not affect the results.

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After Newsmax hosts and guests made false claims about the election, Smartmatic attorneys sent the network a letter threatening legal action.

The network responded by airing a segment that clearly stated there was no evidence that either Dominion or Smartmatic manipulated votes despite claims to the contrary made on its air.

From a legal standpoint, that action could be seen as advantageous to Newsmax in the lawsuit, which has broader first amendment and journalism law implications. 

While Newsmax often attracts attention for its conservative and often drastic statements made on-air by its hosts, it doesn’t boast the same viewership or distribution as Fox. Owned by Christopher Ruddy, a Trump surrogate, the network also publishes a magazine.