(Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Media said on Monday it filed a motion to dismiss electronic voting systems maker Smartmatic’s lawsuit that has claimed that the media group accused it of helping rig the U.S. presidential election in favor of Joe Biden.
In a defamation suit filed last week, Smartmatic had alleged that Fox and other defendants invented a story that the election was stolen from Donald Trump and made Smartmatic “the villain in their story”.
Fox said it moved to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit because it was “meritless” and it defended its reporting of the U.S. presidential election.
“If the First Amendment means anything, it means that Fox cannot be held liable for fairly reporting and commenting on competing allegations in a hotly contested and actively litigated election,” it said in a statement.
Florida-based Smartmatic did not respond to a request for comment on the Fox motion.
In its suit, Smartmatic sought more than $2.7 billion in compensatory and punitive damages. It also asks for defendants to retract false statements.
Fox said that it cannot be held liable for covering all sides of a “vigorous debate of profound national importance”.
“When a sitting president and his surrogates claim that an election was rigged, the public has a right to know what they are claiming, full stop,” it said.
Smartmatic’s suit named as defendants Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, his former lawyer Sidney Powell, Fox Corp and Fox hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.
After the election, Trump and some of his supporters spread false claims of election fraud, including that Smartmatic manipulated the results.
Smartmatic in December demanded Fox News retract allegations leveled by its employees and guests, but Fox did not comply and instead aired an interview on the three hosts’ programs with an outside expert who said there was no evidence to support claims made against Smartmatic.
(This story corrects to clarify that claims were against Smartmatic in last paragraph.)
(Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)