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Networks airing side firms in fraud claims

by DAVID BAUDER THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | December 23, 2020 at 4:56 a.m.
FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2020, file photo Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., speaks as President Donald Trump and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., listen at a campaign rally at Valdosta Regional Airport, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. Many Republican voters in Georgia are angry; certain that widespread voter fraud — claims of which are baseless — cost President Donald Trump the election. Most Republican voters in the state interviewed said they were prepared to put their skepticism aside to vote for Perdue and Loeffler in their races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

NEW YORK -- Two election technology companies whose names have come up in President Donald Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election are fighting back, prompting unusual public statements from Fox News and Newsmax.

The statements, over the weekend and on Monday, came after the companies Smartmatic and Dominion raised the prospect of legal action for reporting what they said was false information about them.

A nearly two-minute pre-taped segment was aired over the weekend on a Fox Business Network program hosted by Lou Dobbs and Fox News Channel shows with Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.

That came days after Smartmatic sent a letter threatening legal action to Fox and two other networks popular with Trump supporters, Newsmax and One America News Network.

The two-minute Fox segments aired in the form of a question-and-answer session between an offscreen voice and Eddie Perez, a voting technology expert at the nonpartisan Open Source Election Technology Institute.

"I have not seen any evidence that Smartmatic software was used to delete, change or alter anything related to vote tabulations," Perez said.

The company says its only work that involved the 2020 U.S. election came in Los Angeles. Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani has claimed that Smartmatic was founded in Venezuela by former dictator Hugo Chavez for the goal of fixing elections. Smartmatic was started in Florida in 2000. Its founder is Venezuelan, but the company said Chavez was never involved, and its last work in Venezuela came in 2017 when its software found the government had reported false turnout numbers.

Perez also said there was no apparent business relationship between Smartmatic and Dominion.

Asked Monday about the segments, Smartmatic's lawyer, J. Erik Connolly, said the company "cannot comment on the recent broadcast by Fox News due to potential litigation."

The network did not comment beyond the on-air segments aired over the weekend.

In its statement, Newsmax said there were "several facts our viewers and readers should be aware," among them the lack of a business relationship between the two companies or that Dominion had any ownership relationship with George Soros, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others.

Company spokesman Anthony Rizzo said Newsmax had never made a claim of impropriety, but that others had appeared on the network to raise questions about Smartmatic.

Dominion has not specifically targeted any news organization. Instead, last week its lawyers sent a letter to Sidney Powell, demanding the Trump supporter retract several of the "wild and reckless" allegations she has made about them. The company said some of its employees have been stalked, harassed and received death threats.

In its letter to Powell, an appellate lawyer from Texas, Dominion lawyers Thomas Clare and Megan Meier said that the company had no ties "to the Chinese government, the Venezuelan government, Hugo Chavez, [British politician] Malloch Brown, George Soros, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster."

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