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Newsmax denies destroying evidence in 2020 defamation case after Smartmatic alleges ‘cover-up’

<i>Aaron M. Sprecher/AP/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>A detail view of the Newsmax logo during the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting
Aaron M. Sprecher/AP/File via CNN Newsource
A detail view of the Newsmax logo during the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

Wilmington, Delaware (CNN) — The right-wing cable channel Newsmax denied Friday that it intentionally destroyed or concealed internal emails in an ongoing defamation case filed by voting technology company Smartmatic over the network’s airing of false claims about the 2020 election.

Lawyers for Smartmatic previously claimed Newsmax “concealed over 200,000 documents” and “made multiple material misrepresentations to the court,” by falsely asserting it had turned over everything before the discovery process wrapped up.

But the network said in filings Friday that it never meant to hide anything, and that the vast majority of the supposedly new materials were duplicates of old files. Newsmax said the allegations are “implausible inferences” and “nothing more than speculation.”

In the wake of the 2020 election, Newsmax and other right-wing media outlets gave airtime to the false assertion that electronic voting machines had switched votes from then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden, costing Trump the election. No evidence has ever been found to support the claim.

In the months that followed, Smartmatic filed a defamation lawsuit against Newsmax and other right-wing outlets and figures, including Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. Smartmatic and Newsmax have since been embroiled in the years-long defamation case, which is slated to go to trial this September in Delaware Superior Court, barring an out-of-court settlement.

In court filings, Smartmatic claimed some of the 200,000 documents include texts among Newsmax executives discussing the “decision not to call the (2020) election.” Parts of the court papers are redacted, but the context suggests that Newsmax also turned over new emails where top executives disparaged their own shows and reporters.

Smartmatic further accused Newsmax of intentionally “destroying relevant evidence” by deleting texts and emails from senior officials. They claimed this “cover-up” was “carefully calculated” to block Smartmatic from ever seeing the material. They claimed Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy let his texts from 2020 get deleted, despite knowing they needed to be saved.

“Repeatedly, Newsmax has kept documents showing its actual malice and bad motive out of Smartmatic’s hands,” Smartmatic wrote in a court filing that was made public last week. “These were not isolated mistakes. This was by design. Newsmax has intentionally destroyed and concealed crucial evidence that is damaging to its case.”

But in its response Friday, Newsmax said the entire dispute over the newly found files is simply “an attempt (by Smartmatic) to manufacture an issue where none exists.”

“Many of the documents Smartmatic claims were ‘newly produced’ and bear on ‘key issues’ were already in Smartmatic’s possession in duplicate or near duplicate versions having been produced by Newsmax,” the network said in filings made public Friday.

Lawyers for the network said it transitioned legal teams in January and reviewed its previous document productions. They said they realized that some documents hadn’t been turned over, but this was fixed “as soon as Newsmax discovered this.”

Barring a settlement between the two parties, the September trial over false claims of vote rigging in the 2020 election is set to coincide with the 2024 election season, as leading Republicans continue to express doubt over whether Biden legitimately won the previous election.

Fox News famously paid more than $787 million to Dominion Voting Systems to settle a case last year over similar 2020 election lies on its airwaves.

Newsmax, which is owned by Ruddy, isn’t a right-wing media juggernaut like Fox, but remains influential in the pro-Trump media ecosystem, even with its smaller audience. The network’s lineup features former Fox personalities like Eric Bolling and Greta Van Susteren, controversial Trump White House official Sebastian Gorka and Clinton ally-turned-foe Dick Morris.

A trial could put Newsmax’s financial future in peril, but there is one major difference between the Newsmax and Fox cases. In the weeks following the election, Smartmatic threatened to sue Newsmax in 2020, the network ran an on-air segment and published an article saying there was “no evidence” that Smartmatic or Dominion ever “manipulated votes in the 2020 election.”

Newsmax also faces a separate defamation suit from Dominion. The network denies wrongdoing and maintains that its 2020 election coverage is protected by the First Amendment.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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