Hoo boy: Lou Dobbs airs debunking of election conspiracy theories after Smartmatic defamation lawsuit threat

You would think News Corp might have had its hosts on a tighter leash after the election with respect to flinging around reputation-destroying accusations considering it *just* reached a settlement with Seth Rich’s parents a few weeks ago.

But I suppose there’s a certain icy-cold logic to letting Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro and others run wild. In all likelihood, Fox will end up making more money in ad revenue by driving up ratings with election conspiracy theories than it’ll end up paying out to Smartmatic or Dominion or whoever else comes banging on their door about defamation. If you can make $250 million from falsely suggesting that the vote was rigged and expect to pay out no more than, say, $100 million if you’re sued, that’s a deal worth doing. If you don’t have a conscience, I mean.

They might not need to pay out anything. The clip below, which is completely out of character for Dobbs’s show, is very clearly a response to the demand for a retraction made by Smartmatic earlier this week. U.S. defamation law entitles a public figure (which Smartmatic presumably is) to recover damages only if it can show “actual malice,” i.e. that the defendant either knowingly lied about them or passed along bad information with reckless disregard for whether it was true or false. That last part is what Fox was worried about so they put together the little package you’re about to see. “Reckless? Us? Why, just watch this!”

Reportedly the segment will also air on Bartiromo’s and Pirro’s shows this weekend. I defer to legal eagles on whether that’ll suffice to defeat a defamation claim by Smartmatic but no doubt the company will find it pitifully inadequate: It ran near the end of the hour, practically an afterthought, and Dobbs himself had no role in it apart from introducing it. He could have conducted the interview with Eddie Perez himself or issued a frank apology and retraction for some of the claims pushed either by him or guests like Sidney Powell. Instead he washed his hands of it and let the network put together a generic Q&A with an expert that seems more designed to *avoid* issuing a retraction than to make things right with Smartmatic. That is, I’m sure most of Dobbs’s viewers watched this and thought, “Who is this guy? Why should I care about his opinion?” Whereas if Dobbs himself had taken responsibility by reciting the facts cited by Perez, that would have had more of an impact.

I’m surprised they didn’t build this segment out and do a debunking of myths about Dominion too, as that lawsuit threat is destined to happen. Or maybe they did ask Perez about Dominion and they’re just holding that part of the footage back, ready to air it if/when they get a cease-and-desist letter from Dominion’s lawyers. Dominion is focused on Sidney Powell right now but News Corp’s pockets are much deeper than Powell’s are.

The most important consequence of this segment going forward, I assume, is that Fox Business and Fox News will be much stricter with hosts about what sort of election-related crankishness they’re allowed to endorse. You can’t check the box with a segment like this and then go right back tomorrow to speculating that Smartmatic was part of a Venezuelan plot to rig the election. That’d be the definition of recklessness, continuing to push bad information when you have every reason to know the truth. That leash will be tightened after all, however belatedly.