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Smartmatic, One America News settle election defamation lawsuit

FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of Smartmatic is seen at its offices in Caracas

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) -Smartmatic has settled a lawsuit accusing right-wing television network One America News of defamation by falsely claiming that the voting technology company rigged the 2020 U.S. presidential election to help Joe Biden beat Donald Trump.

Terms of the settlement are confidential, Smartmatic’s lawyer Erik Connolly said, but the company voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit filed in 2021 against OAN in Washington, D.C.

Smartmatic had estimated that OAN’s false claims wiped out much of its business value, reducing it to less than $1 billion from more than $3 billion.

Chip Babcock, a lawyer for OAN, also confirmed the settlement without providing details.

The lawsuit was one of several accusing right-wing or conservative-leaning media of spreading lies about the election to drum up viewership, and boost advertising revenue.

Smartmatic still has lawsuits pending against Fox News and Newsmax over their election coverage. It is seeking $2.7 billion in the Fox lawsuit.

Last April, the voting technology company Dominion Voting Systems reached a $787.5 million settlement with Fox, as opening statements at a trial were about to begin.

OAN positioned itself to the right of Fox and Newsmax, sometimes airing conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the U.S. Capitol, and vaccine safety.

It suffered financial blows in 2022 when Verizon and AT&T’s DirecTV stopped carrying its programming.

Smartmatic, based in Boca Raton, Florida, accused OAN of causing irreparable harm by “spreading disinformation” about the election and its technology.

It said San Diego-based OAN eroded trust in the democratic process and abandoned a pledge by Charles Herring, president of its owner Herring Networks, to provide “reliable, credible, fact-based news with substance.”

In court papers, OAN said awarding Smartmatic more than $2 billion would silence “one more, albeit conservative, voice” from what the U.S. Supreme Court has called the “marketplace of ideas” protected by the First Amendment.

Trump, a Republican, hopes to retake the White House from Biden, a Democrat, in a November rematch.

The case is Smartmatic USA Corp et al v Herring Networks Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 21-02900.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Stephen Coates)

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