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Defamation Threats Pose Big Problem for Right-Wing Media

Ben Smith: Potential suits against right-wing media over voting machines are serious
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2020 2:15 PM CST
Lawsuits Pose Real Threat to Idea of 'Trump TV'
A monitor showing a Dominion Voting display is seen as Cobb County Election officials count ballots on a machine Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Marietta, Ga.   (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

(Newser) – Remember "pink slime"? The term regarding ground beef was at the heart of the biggest settlement in the history of media defamation cases back in 2017, and it was a win achieved by an attorney named J. Erik Connolly, writes Ben Smith in the New York Times. Well, Connolly is involved in a new case now, and his "target is a kind of red slime, the stream of preposterous lies coming from the White House and Republican officials around the country." Connolly represents Antonio Mugica, whose Smartmatic software is accused in conspiracy theories of tilting the 2020 election in Joe Biden's favor. Mugica, though, is fighting back, and he has threatened litigation against Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN, all of which have repeatedly accused Smartmatic and rival Dominion Voting Systems of fixing the election for Biden. Mugica's threats carry real weight, writes Smith.

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"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," he writes. Don't believe him? Witness how the threats already have pushed Lou Dobbs of Fox and others to air a segment debunking their own fraud claims. Smith interviews a host of legal experts who says Mugica has a real case given that his company played no role in the 2020 election, save for a single contract to help Los Angeles County. Meanwhile, Dominion is poised to launch its own litigation. If the suits come to pass, one fallout could be the end of dreams of a "Trump TV" media company, writes Smith. Both OAN and Newsmax and vying to become that, but they'll have a hard time convincing needed investors to come on board given the threat of a massive lawsuit. (Read the full column.)

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