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Pro-Trump network OAN and Smartmatic settle 2020 election defamation case

<i>Drew Angerer/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>One America News Network has settled a defamation lawsuit brought against it by the voting technology company Smartmatic.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
One America News Network has settled a defamation lawsuit brought against it by the voting technology company Smartmatic.

By Marshall Cohen and Oliver Darcy, CNN

(CNN) — Voting technology company Smartmatic and the far-right network One America News said Tuesday that they had settled a defamation lawsuit stemming from the outlet’s lies about the 2020 election.

“The case has been resolved pursuant to a confidential agreement,” OAN attorney Chip Babcock told CNN.

Both parties declined to share details about the settlement.

The case against OAN was one of a spate of lawsuits filed against right-wing outlets in the aftermath of the election. In the wake of the 2020 presidential contest, pro-Donald Trump outlets spread lies wrongfully suggesting President Joe Biden had not been legitimately elected president.

Smartmatic filed its lawsuit against OAN in 2021, alleging that the right-wing conspiracy network “victimized” the company and spread lies about its role in the 2020 election to “increase viewership and revenue.”

The development comes one year after Fox News reached a massive settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, another voting technology company that was similarly smeared in 2020. Fox News paid more than $787 million to end that lawsuit, becoming the largest publicly known defamation settlement in US history.

Smartmatic still has pending lawsuit against Fox News, the smaller conservative channel Newsmax, and several pro-Trump figures who also pushed lies about the election.

OAN has established itself as perhaps the most extreme of the pro-Trump cable news outlets. And its reporters have sometimes crossed the line into right-wing politicking.

The little-watched network has regularly given airtime to baseless conspiracy theories that support Trump, most prominently about the 2020 election.

The channel worked closely with Russian operatives on a propaganda-style documentary during Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 over allegations he pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. One of its correspondents, who is also an attorney, even worked with Trump’s legal team to subvert the 2020 election results.

OAN settled a defamation suit in September with former Dominion executive Eric Coomer, whose case revealed how the network worked with former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell and others to lie about the election.

DirecTV dropped the far-right network from its lineup in 2022, dealing a significant blow to the outlet, hitting the network’s viewership and revenue.

In its lawsuit, Smartmatic alleged OAN hosts and guests made dozens of false claims about the company’s role in the 2020 election. Personalities on the network repeatedly said Smartmatic software was used in voting machines “in 30 states,” including battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. In reality, Smartmatic software was only used in one California county.

Others on OAN claimed that Smartmatic’s software was “used to switch votes from President Trump to Joe Biden,” and said the company was engaged in digital “ballot-stuffing” to help Biden win. OAN personalities also stretched the truth about Smartmatic’s past ties to Venezuela to weave a baseless narrative that, “Maduro allies were meddling in the latest US election through a company called Smartmatic.”

The case was still in the discovery phase when the settlement was reached.

Depositions were scheduled to take place Tuesday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The person said depositions were scheduled soon for OAN president Charles Herring and his brother Robert Herring Jr., who is also an OAN executive — but those won’t happen now that the case has concluded. Their father Robert Herring Sr., is a wealthy California businessman who founded the network in 2013.

The Herrings were also entangled in a scandal within the lawsuit. Smartmatic claimed in court filings that they may have “engaged in criminal activities” by obtaining and sharing internal passwords of Smartmatic employees. OAN denied the allegations, and there was never a judicial finding of wrongdoing against the Herrings.

While the Smartmatic case is over, OAN still faces a separate defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion over its promotion of 2020 election lies.

Correction: This story has been updated to accurately state who had been scheduled for depositions in the Smartmatic-OAN case. It was Charles Herring and Robert Herring Jr.

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