NEW YORK (AP) — A defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp., Fox News Network and Lou Dobbs can proceed toward trial, a judge ruled Monday after concluding that a Venezuelan businessman had made sufficient claims of being unfairly accused of trying to corrupt the 2020 U.S. presidential election to be permitted to gather more evidence.
The lawsuit filed last year alleged that businessman Majed Khalil was defamed by Dobbs on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and in tweets.
It said the former Fox personality joined with attorney Sidney Powell on a December 2020 show to claim that Khalil and three others designed and developed programs and machines to corrupt the presidential election.
Lawyers for Fox and Dobbs had tried to convince U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton in Manhattan to toss out the lawsuit before evidence such as depositions and emails could be reviewed, but the judge said Khalil had sufficiently claimed that his reputation was harmed by false accusations.
The judge said Khalil may be able to argue to a jury that actual malice occurred because the defendants “repeatedly maintained their claims about Khalil long after Powell's election fraud theories were challenged.”
He wrote that numerous reports declaring the falsity of claims against voting machine manufacturers Smartmatic Corp. and Dominion Voting Systems and rejecting Powell as a source of accurate information gave the defendants “reasons to doubt Powell's veracity and the accuracy of her reports.”
Stanton said Khalil had sufficiently alleged that “the defendants purposefully avoided the truth, given the amount of public information regarding the lack of fraud in the election.”
He rejected arguments by lawyers for Fox that it cannot be held liable for statements made by Dobbs and Powell.
The judge noted that Fox controlled Twitter accounts from which many of the statements were first made.
He said the network's executives were also on notice that allegations regarding election rigging by Dominion and Smartmatic were false because they had received several emails from the companies and had conversations with Dominion.
Messages seeking comment were sent to lawyers in the case and Fox.