Sidney Powell doesn’t think any “reasonable person” who listened to her claims about the 2020 election — and donated to her stated effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory — would believe what she was saying on television “were truly statements of fact.” That is what her attorneys argued last month in an attempt to beat back a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from the company she accused of rigging the vote.
On Monday, Dominion Voting Systems fired back. In a court filing, it accused the far-right conspiracy theorist of spreading lies about the company and the integrity of US democracy in order to sell books and make money. And it accused her of seeking to evade responsibility by inventing a new standard for libel whereby one could get away with defamation merely by committing it on Fox News.
“After lying about the evidence supporting her claims,” Dominion’s legal team said, “Powell now asks this court to create unprecedented immunity for attorneys to wage televised disinformation campaigns.”
The company, which filed its lawsuit in US federal court in January, is seeking $1.3 billion in damages.
After the November election, Powell, a former federal prosecutor who now sells autographed books and T-shirts on her website, alleged it was the loser of the 2020 election, Donald Trump, who in fact “won by a landslide” (Biden beat the former president by more than 7 million votes).
Her claims were cosigned by the Republican Party and endorsed by the former president, although his campaign later distanced itself from Powell as her outlandish assertions increased their legal vulnerability. (Rudy Giuliani, too, is now being sued by the company for his part in “a viral disinformation campaign.)
Among other things, Powell falsely asserted she had evidence Dominion “was created to produce altered voting results in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez,” and that it had been imported to the US to do the same for Democrats. “We’re collecting evidence now from various whistleblowers that are aware of substantial sums of money being given to family members of state officials who bought this software,” she stated.
To support her claims against Dominion, she filed an affidavit from Ron Watkins, the owner of a conspiracy-theory message board, 8kun, that gained infamy as the home of the “QAnon” hoax.
Powell’s attorneys now assert this was all merely the heated rhetoric of a political campaign, not intended to be actionable statements of fact. But Dominion’s legal team says that is no defense — and that Powell harmed the company for personal profit, using “defamatory falsehoods to solicit funds … and to garner media attention,” which in turn helped her sell “additional copies of her book and drummed up additional potential clients.”
If Powell has any evidence to back up her claims, Dominion is inviting her to show them to the court.
“She either has a video of Dominion’s founder admitting that he can change a million votes or she does not (she does not),” the company’s lawyers state. “Dominion was either created in Venezuela to rig elections or it was not (it was not). Dominion either rigged the 2020 election by weighting, flipping, switching, and trashing votes or it did not (it did not). Dominion either bribed officials or it did not (it did not).”
Dominion’s legal filing comes just days after one of its executives reached a settlement with Newsmax, a right-wing media organization that alleged the company’s head of security had rigged the election himself. On its cable television network, Newsmax informed its viewers that it in fact had “no evidence” to support the allegation.
But retractions never garner the same amount of attention as an initial, inflammatory claim. A recent CNN poll found that while a large majority of Americans accept Biden’s victory as the product of a free and fair election, 70% of Republicans believe his presidency is illegitimate.
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