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Some Right-Wing Media Air Segments To Rebut Their Own Claims Of Voter Fraud

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After months of amplifying President Trump's false claims about election fraud, Fox News, the Fox Business Network and Newsmax have run awkward segments rebutting those claims. That's because those wild allegations have led to one lawsuit and the threat of more. NPR's David Folkenflik has this report on how those networks are trying to backpedal in an effort to avoid further litigation.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: You remember Fox Business host Lou Dobbs - good old, a terrible crime has been perpetrated upon President Trump and the American voting public, Lou Dobbs.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT")

LOU DOBBS: Defense attorney Sidney Powell cited a whistleblower's stunning affidavit. It says Smartmatic's technology was used to rig elections in Venezuela. It is now in the, quote, "DNA of every vote-tabulating company's software and system."

FOLKENFLIK: Ever since the election, Dobbs has had on guests who asserted fraud by Smartmatic, which makes voting machine software, as well as by another company, Dominion, which makes voting machines. Though Dobbs acknowledged their denials of fraud, Smartmatic isn't standing for it anymore and has threatened Fox with litigation. Outside lawyers say it may have a strong case. You saw the first sign of retreat Friday evening in a surreal segment on Dobbs' show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Have you seen any evidence that Smartmatic's software was used to flip votes anywhere in the U.S. in this election?

FOLKENFLIK: It presented a producer's disembodied voice. Questions focused on Smartmatic, the questions posted on the screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT")

EDDIE PEREZ: I have not seen any evidence that Smartmatic software was used to delete, change, alter anything related to vote tabulation.

FOLKENFLIK: The guest was Eddie Perez, the global director of tech development at a nonprofit called Open Source Election Technology. The segment looked like an infomercial and sounded like a deposition.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Have you seen any evidence of Smartmatic sending U.S. votes to be tabulated in foreign countries?

PEREZ: No. I'm not aware...

FOLKENFLIK: Smartmatic's software was, as Perez said several times, only used in Los Angeles County during the 2020 elections. Perez basically shot down one allegation after another about Smartmatic.

PEREZ: In any of the conversations that I had with Fox's people or the booking agent or the producer, at no time did anybody give me any indication that Smartmatic would be a topic of conversation at all, much less being the exclusive topic of conversation.

FOLKENFLIK: Perez tells NPR that Fox had asked him to discuss claims about the integrity of the vote more broadly.

PEREZ: Frankly, I was very surprised. When the final question that they needed was done and they simply said thank you, that was my first indication - oh, it's - we're not even going in that direction in this sort of discussion.

FOLKENFLIK: Even so, Perez says he felt oddly glad to participate because Fox hosts have helped to spread so much election disinformation. The segment ran on two other prominent Fox shows. Two Fox News staffers say the video was an effort to appease Smartmatic. Its lawyers declined to comment to NPR. Some Fox News viewers have defected to the even more feverishly pro-Trump Newsmax TV. Yet on Monday, Newsmax host John Tabacco read that network's own epic walk-back.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN TABACCO: Newsmax would like to clarify its news coverage and note that it has not reported as true certain claims made about these companies.

FOLKENFLIK: He offered a tour of the increasingly baroque and unfounded allegations being made about Smartmatic and Dominion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TABACCO: Dominion has stated the company has no ownership relationship with the Pelosi family, the Feinstein family, the Clinton family, Hugo Chavez, or the government of Venezuela.

FOLKENFLIK: Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy tells NPR, that was merely clarifying the network's position. That didn't stop a Dominion employee from suing Newsmax, along with other right-wing media outfits and the Trump campaign, alleging defamation. The employee said he'd received violent threats and was forced into hiding. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF PARRA FOR CUVA'S "TEMPERATURE OF TRAVELING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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