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Smartmatic sues Fox News, Giuliani over election-rigging claims

Feb 4 (Reuters) - Electronic voting systems maker Smartmatic on Thursday sued Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News cable network and Rudolph Giuliani, a lawyer for former President Donald Trump, claiming they defamed the company by falsely accusing it of helping to rig the U.S. presidential election in favor of Joe Biden.

The suit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, also names as defendants former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, Fox Corp and Fox hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.

Smartmatic alleged that Fox and other defendants invented a story that the election was stolen from Trump and decided to make Smartmatic “the villain in their story.”

“Fox News used the story to preserve its grip on viewers and readers and curry favors with the outgoing administration – one of their anchors was even able to get a pardon for her ex-husband,” the lawsuit said, referring to Pirro.

The suit seeks more than $2.7 billion in compensatory and punitive damages. Smartmatic also asks for defendants to retract “false statements and implications.”

“This is a first step in trying to recover our reputation and trying to set the record straight,” said Smartmatic Chief Executive Antonio Mugica in an interview.

Florida-based Smartmatic’s technology was only used in one place for the Nov. 3 presidential election - Los Angeles County, which Biden won.

After the election, Trump and some of his supporters spread false claims of election fraud, including that Smartmatic and competitor Dominion Voting Systems manipulated the results.

The lawsuit cited as evidence on-air exchanges such as one between Bartiromo and Giuliani on Nov. 17. “What do you think went on here?” Bartiromo asked Giuliani. “Because when we spoke on Sunday, we talked about the software made by Smartmatic that was changing votes from Trump to Biden.”

On Dec. 10, Smartmatic sent a letter to Fox News demanding that it retract allegations leveled by its employees and guests.

Fox did not issue a retraction. Instead in December it aired an interview on the three hosts’ programs, featuring an outside expert who confirmed there was no evidence to support the Smartmatic claims by Fox hosts and guests.

Dominion Voting Systems has filed similar lawsuits against Giuliani and Powell. (Reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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