Newsmax Feels The Pressure
Facing lawsuit threats from voting-tech companies, Newsmax has had to walk back the pro-Trump conspiracy-mongering it had done since the election pushing bogus claims of election fraud.
By Terry Krepel
In mid-December, Newsmax was among right-wing media outlets who received a legal notice from Smartmatic, an election technology company that his been named in various right-wing election fraud conspiracy theories, demanding a retraction of false and defamatory claims made about the company. Newsmax initially censored news of Smartmatic's letter on its website, but it defended itself in a statement to CNBC:
Newsmax, in a statement, said that “Newsmax itself has never made a claim of impropriety about Smartmatic, its ownership or software.”
But late on Dec. 19 (a Saturday night, a news dead zone), it quietly published an unbylined article, credited only to "Newsmax Wires," headlined "Facts About Dominion, Smartmatic You Should Know."
Newsmax began by stating that "Newsmax would like to clarify its news coverage and note it has not reported as true certain claims made about these companies." Then, the walkbacks began:
There are several facts our viewers and readers should be aware. Newsmax has found no evidence either Dominion or Smartmatic owns the other, or has any business association with each other.
Newsmax TV host John Tabacco later read this statement on the air.
Omitted from the statement is the fact that Newsmax has uncritically forwarded false attacks on Smartmatic and Dominion. On Nov. 15, for instance, Eric Mack uncritically quoted Rudy Giuliani ranting: "Dominion, when you look into it with just a little bit of investigation, you find out that Dominion uses a software, Smartmatic, which is a company that goes back to 2004. It was founded by two Venezuelans and Cesar Chavez. It has a terrible history of having fixed elections in Argentina, having fixed elections in Venezuela. It was all outlined in 2008 by the House of Representatives."
On Nov. 17, it uncritically quoted columnist Dick Morris saying on a Newsmax TV show, "I do not necessarily believe it was a retail fraud, you know, vote by vote, count by count. ... I think it may well have originated in the Dominion software, in the Smartmatic software that the polling people, voting people used."
One can even go back to 2016, when a Newsmax article documented an appearance on Fox News by Trump supporter Betsy McCaughey, who claimed that "More investigation is needed to be made into Smartmatic, a British voting machine company that is 'very involved' with billionaire George Soros' 'left wing globalist enterprises." McCaughey went on to claim that there is "airtight case against Soros to tilt this election," as he's "very close to Hillary Clinton."
Like Fox News -- which did a similar walkback after receiving a similar legal notice from Smartmatic -- Newsmax does understand the power of a threatened lawsuit over something it couldn't possibly defend.
Understandably, this legal threat put Newsmax in a bit of a tizzy -- and on the defensive. Eric Mack worked up a little outrage in a Jan. 17 article in which he claimed, "CNN is making no mistake about it: It wants to censor and close Newsmax from broadcasting as a cable news channel." Mack kept up the outrage:
Apparently jolted by the fact Newsmax has skyrocketed to become the 4th highest-rated cable news channel in the country, the liberal CNN is decrying what it calls Newsmax's "election denialism" and is seeking to have it "deplatformed" from cable and satellite systems across the nation.
Mack offered no evidence that Darcy is "leftwing" other that he criticized Newsmax. Instead, he continued to attack Darcy:
Darcy doubled down, advancing the McCarthy-like political witch hunt by tweeting a fresh demand cable operators which carry Newsmax consider closing down the outlet:
In fact, AT&T no longer operates cable TV systems, though it does currently offer a streaming TV service. Mack continued:
In a statement released Sunday, Newsmax said, contrary to Darcy's and Stamos' claims, Newsmax never denied the election results.
Newsmax won't tell you that it did, in fact, present those claims without question, never subjecting them to the kind of fact-checking one would expect from a legitimate news organization -- thus implying to its readers that the claims are true.
Newsmax columnists from James Hirsen to Dick Morris to Michael Dorstewitz have pushed bogus election fraud conspiracy theories, and Newsmax "news" article also uncritically forwarded baseless or false election fraud conspiracy theories without informing readers they were false.
To cite another example of that: A Dec. 23 "news" article by Sandy Fitzgerald touted how "President Donald Trump Tuesday night released a 14-minute long video through Facebook declaring the election had been stolen from him in favor of Joe Biden because of "monstrous fraud." ... He added that he has proof of "overwhelming election fraud." But Fitzgerald uncritically repeated Trump's claims, refusing to subject a single one to any sort of fact-check.
Interestingly, Mack made no mention of his employer walking back its reporting on voting-tech companies Dominion and Smartmatic after receiving a legal notice from Smartmatic accusing it of publishing false and defamatory claims about the company -- one of the major pieces of evidence that Newsmax has, in fact, engaged in "election denialism."
Instead, Mack closed with the final sentence of the Newsmax statement, which went into whataboutism mode: "The network did note, after years of CNN falsely claiming the Steele Dossier was valid and the Russian collusion claim against Trump was credible, it was never held accountable for its misreporting. Newsmax never called for CNN to be shut down." Newsmax provided no evidence that CNN actually did any of that.
Newsmax's defensiveness over the Dominion/Smartmatic issue continued. So sensitive was Newsmax about the legal repercussions that, when MyPillow guy Mike Lindell appeared on Newsmax TV to spread more election-fraud conspiracies, host Bob Sellers first tried to get him to shut up, and when the failed, he walked off the set. (There was apparently no actual bad blood between the two entities over the incident, because Lindell was back on Newsmax TV later that day declaring that Newsmax is "great," with Newsmax sucking up in kind by noting that it published a story about Lindell's situation encouraging readers to support the courageous businessman from cancel culture targeting.")
In a Feb. 17 article on Dominion Voting Systems suing Lindell for defamation, Newsmax tried to distance itself from the controversy (and, of course, avoid getting sued by Dominion itself):
The suit is the latest in a series of multibillion-dollar court actions taken by voting machine companies against high-profile supporters of Donald Trump, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, claiming they spread disinformation about voter fraud.
Newsmax served up another version of that disclaimer in a Feb. 22 article on Dominion suing MyPillow guy Mike Lindell for spreading lies about the company, right down to the double "had" in the final paragraph.
Newsmax repeated its disclaimer (though not the same exact language) in a March 26 article on Dominion filing a defamation suit against Fox News for doing essentially the same thing Newsmax did. But it also tried to play whataboutism with the Mueller investigation into Trump:
Conservative critics of the suits claim the litigation has been an attempt to squelch dissent about the election results that emanated from then-President Donald Trump and his lawyers.
In fact, there were numerous contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, but the evidence did not rise to a criminal level.
Settling with Dominion executive
Mere statements alone, however, may not save Newsmax from legal repercussion. In a Friday news dump, Newsmax has apologized to Dominion official Eric Coomer in an April 30 statement published on its website:
Since Election Day, various guests, attorneys, and hosts on Newsmax have offered opinions and claims about Dr. Eric Coomer, the Director of Product Strategy and Security at Dominion Voting Systems.
Newsmax doesn't say so, but the statement is part of a settlement of a lawsuit Coomer filed against right-wing personalities and outlets for pushing those false claims; as a result of this and other undisclosed terms, Coomer has dropped Newsmax from the lawsuit.
Newsmax's settlement puts pressure on the other defendants in the lawsuit, including Joe Oltmann, the main source of the apparently false claims against Coomer. It also puts pressure on WorldNetDaily, even though it's not named in the lawsuit; WND columnist James Zumwalt uncritically repeated Oltmann's claims in a Dec. 2 column that remains inexplicably live and unedited (as of this writing) on the WND website despite the legal jeopardy it has put WND into.
Defensive about Capitol riot coverage
Newsmax's aggressiveness in pushing bogus claims of election fraud is not the only thing that has Newsmax on the defensive. In a Feb. 22 article, Marisa Herman complained on a related issue, a letter from two "Democrat [sic] House lawmakers" who are "demanding answers from cable television providers on the role they play in the 'spread of dangerous misinformation,'" one of them being Newsmax:
Newsmax issued a statement Monday decrying what the company said was an attack on the First Amendment. The Newsmax statement read:
The article was accompanied by a compilation clip of Newsmax TV's Jan. 6 "news coverage." But it's hours of coverage condensed to less than two minutes, which means that Newsmax edited out any coverage that wasn't critical of the riot -- including the "sort of a romantic idea" statement. (Also: Newsmax could only find two minutes of people denouncing the riot on its TV channel across hours of programming?)
Many of these claims are repeated in a Feb. 24 article by Eric Mack touting a letter from Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy responding to the House members' letter:
"In general, Newsmax reported fairly and accurately on allegations and claims made by both sides during the recent election contest. Newsmax called the election for President Joe Biden as soon as the states had certified their election results. Further, Newsmax forcefully and repeatedly used its airwaves to condemn the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6."
Ruddy again threw Rosenbaum under the bus without proving a clip of the full segment in which he appeared.
Newsmax needs to give the public access to the entirety of its Jan. 6 TV coverage -- not a highly edited two-minute highlight reel -- so we can judge exactly how biased it was that day.