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The financial cost of Trump’s election lies is now nearly $1bn

Defamation lawsuits and multi-million dollar complaints target high-profile figures and media networks

Alex Woodward
Saturday 16 December 2023 16:13 GMT
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Rudy Giuliani leaves court after being ordered to pay $148 million to election workers

The financial toll of airing lies and bogus conspiracy theories about Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election has already reached nearly $1bn after a settlement and verdict in two major defamation cases in this year alone.

On Friday, following a four-day trial in Washington DC, Rudy Giuliani was ordered to pay more than $148m for defaming two former election workers in Georgia, not including the tens of thousands of dollars he was ordered to pay in other sanctions throughout the case.

That verdict stems from a defamation lawsuit that also targeted far-right media network One America News Network and its owners, which settled last year in an undisclosed sum.

In April, Fox News reached a last-minute, record-breaking $787m settlement with Dominion Voting Systems that averted one of the biggest-ever defamation trials in American history moments before it was due to begin.

The verdict in Mr Giuliani’s case delivers a massive legal and financial blow to a prominent amplifier of conspiracy theory-driven claims surrounding election fraud, three years later, as those lies continue to fester across US politics.

Within eight months, the financial fallout from 2020’s election lies reached more than $935m.

That figure does not include the mounting legal costs surrounding the hundreds of cases connected to the January 6 and the attack on the US Capitol, nor the federal and state-level criminal cases against Mr Trump and his allies for their alleged attempts to overturn 2020 election results, an effort fuelled by the ongoing false narrative that the outcome was stolen from and rigged against him.

Another voting systems company, Smartmatic, has sued Fox News for defamation in a lawsuit alleging $2.7bn in financial losses. Like the Dominion case, Smartmatic alleges that Fox guests and hosts – including Mr Giuliani – falsely accused the company of participating in an international conspiracy to rig the election against Mr Trump.

The lawsuit outlines 13 Fox broadcasts from November and December 2020 in which Smartmatic was accused of stealing votes in more than 100 “false and misleading” statements.

The Fox Corporation also faces lawsuits from several jurisdictions claiming that the company neglected its fiduciary duties to shareholders by airing false statements that exposed the network to debilitating defamation claims.

New York City, among jurisdictions suing, holds roughly 857,000 shares, valued at $28.1m, as of 31 July. The state of Oregon, suing on behalf of a retirement fund for the state’s public employees, holds 150,146 shares of Fox Class A stock and 76,169 shares of Fox Class B stock worth approximately $5.2m as of 31 August, according to the state.

Ray Epps, a loyal Fox News viewer at the centre of a right-wing conspiracy theory that he incited the mob on January 6 to entrap Trump supporters, also is suing Fox after he was subject to a campaign of “falsehoods” that “have destroyed” his family’s life, according to the complaint, which seeks unspecified damages.

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