Good bye, Lou Dobbs. Turns out that lying about election fraud daily on cable television is one thing. Having your employer sued for $2.7 billion because of those lies is quite another. So much for having your back.¹
Last week, Smartmatic, the voting technology company, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, Mr. Dobbs and fellow-hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The suit accuses them of waging ‘a disinformation campaign’ against the firm. It claims that they all intentionally lied about Smartmatic in an effort to mislead the public into believing that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from the ex-president.²
Purposefully and repeatedly attempting to mislead the public without a shred of evidence? Them?
Did Dobbs, Bartiromo, Pirro, Giuliani, Power and Fox News think that Smartmatic would just let their lies slide? Just move on from them? Pretend their baseless rants did not happen? You know, like how the Republicans in Congress are planning to overlook the attack on the Capitol?
Turns out that Smartmatic did not appreciate being tied erroneously to Dominion voting machines, or associated with the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, or the conspiracy theory that the firm’s software was part of a massive, orchestrated plot to steal the election. Smartmatic provided voting services only to Los Angeles County, making their defense that much easier to delineate. Something they spelled out, using small, easy to understand words, in painstaking and compelling detail in their nearly 300-page complaint. As the firm explained, Fox News needed a villain to promote its baseless claims about election fraud. Not finding a legitimate one, they chose Smartmatic.
At Fox News, promoting baseless claims and conspiracy theories has long been fully acceptable — probably even encouraged given their power to attract and retain a large audience, and, in turn, secure lucrative advertising contracts — until that very moment when their hard-earned money is threatened. Now, the network is in full back-pedal mode. Dobbs is no doubt but the first to depart. Watch as others of their self-aggrandizing, unprofessional, disingenuous, holier-than-thou talking heads are unceremoniously and abruptly shown the door. At least the ones down the Fox News food chain. The big three — Hannity, Ingraham and Carlson — are no doubt safe, even should they be named in a child pornography ring. Like, say, QAnon.
These are not good times at Fox News. Since the presidential election, ratings have been fast declining as those farther to the right seek ‘news’ more supportive of the ex-president, Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene and other conspiracy theory-spewing, White supremacist, anti-Semitic, history-denying seditionists. Hello, Newsmax. Hello, One America News Network. The new homes for the ultra alt-right. But even they must be cautious. Because $2.7 billion is a very big number.
Speaking of a big number, The Washington Post estimates that post-election lies regarding a ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen’ election have cost U.S. taxpayers at least $519 million — and counting. Their current estimate includes nearly $490 million to protect the Capitol after the attempted coup of January 6. Another $28 million was spent at the state level to protect local government buildings. And $2.2 million was devoted by states to the defense of legal challenges and security for election officials.³ Turns out, lies are expensive. The Big Lie is costing us dearly.
And while no one was paying close attention, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans across the country are at this very moment considering 106 laws to restrict voting rights, largely among people of color, immigrants, and low-income citizens.⁴ More than a third of the new regulations would place restrictions on voting by mail. In future elections, it appears that the Republicans hope to avoid the need to spread baseless conspiracy theories about a ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen’ election. Instead, they will simply prevent people from voting, people who are likely to vote for the opposition. Problem solved.
That’s one way to cut down on these pesky $2.7 billion lawsuits. Too bad that it’s too little too late for Lou Dobbs. And, just maybe, for Fox News.