A billionaire is boosting a major defamation lawsuit against Fox News


Smartmatic, the voting technology company enmeshed in complex defamation lawsuits against Fox News and Newsmax, has a powerful new financial ally: billionaire tech entrepreneur Reid Hoffman.

Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn, has made a multimillion-dollar investment intended in part to help the company sustain its costly litigation. Smartmatic has said the two news outlets smeared it by airing bogus claims of rigged vote counting in the 2020 election.

In a statement provided to The Washington Post, Hoffman alluded to the toll taken on Smartmatic, which has spent tens of millions on legal costs related to the suits. “Smartmatic built a global business by using technology to better engage citizens, regardless of party or ideology, by making voting simple and trustworthy,” Hoffman said. “After Donald Trump lost in 2020, however, Smartmatic became a target of the defamatory campaign to overturn his defeat.”

Dmitri Mehlhorn, an adviser to Hoffman, said the investment is in line with Hoffman’s desire to support the role of the legal system in arbitrating fact from fiction.

“Not only is Smartmatic a great investment in terms of financial returns, this was a way to provide capital that would allow the truth to be found in the courts,” he said. “This is a company that is a great company with a great CEO, and this case is a great case.”

Mehlhorn said the entrepreneur connected with Smartmatic chief executive Antonio Mugica through friends of friends.

“They already kind of liked each other broadly and remotely, and then this deal came up,” he said of Hoffman and Mugica.

“Smartmatic’s technology has counted 7 billion votes on 6 continents with zero security breaches,” Mugica said in his own statement. “Voters, candidates and election officials in all of those elections are watching to see if we still stand up for the truth against lies. Rest assured, we do.”

Billionaires have previously wielded unexpected influence in media defamation battles. Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal, paid about $10 million to help finance a lawsuit filed by the wrestler Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media. Thiel had taken a dislike to Gawker after the gossip-focused website published unflattering articles about him and his associates. When Hogan won a $140 million judgment against Gawker, the company was forced into bankruptcy. (Hoffman was an early executive at PayPal, and both he and Thiel are part of the “PayPal mafia.”)

Hoffman is also no stranger to backing litigation, particularly claims against conservative politicians or causes. He recently helped fund the lawsuit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump in New York, drawing the ire of the former president’s lawyers.

“When Reid deploys financial capital, that always has a philosophical element of protecting the rule of law,” Mehlhorn said. “We’ve always thought the court system was an important part of the battle to protect America from MAGA.”

Hoffman has been a prominent supporter of Democratic causes, and recently donated $2 million to an effort to get New Hampshire voters to write in President Biden in the state’s Democratic primary in January after the Democratic National Committee encouraged candidates not to participate. (Hoffman also donated $250,000 to a super PAC supporting former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley in her bid for the Republican presidential nomination.)

No trial date has been set for Smartmatic’s suit against Fox, which last year settled similar claims from another election technology company, Dominion Voting Systems, for $787.5 million. Fox News has defended its coverage of the 2020 election by saying that it was simply covering newsworthy claims made by Trump and his associates, including accusations of fraud. In a statement, a Fox representative portrayed Hoffman’s involvement in the case as politically motivated.

“As a report prepared by our financial expert shows, Smartmatic’s damages claims against Fox News are highly implausible, disconnected from reality and on their face intended to chill First Amendment freedoms, so their alliance with a high profile Democratic donor and longtime supporter of President Biden to fund their lawsuit is entirely predictable,” the statement read. “We remain ready to defend this case surrounding extremely newsworthy events when it goes to trial next year.”

Smartmatic is suing Fox for $2.7 billion, arguing that its business and future prospects were decimated by comments made on the network that tied the voting technology company to a plot to flip the 2020 election in Biden’s favor.

“The 2024 election is the biggest election in earth’s history, and the market is massive, and Smartmatic was built to seize it, and they’ve spent the last four years dealing with a coordinated and orchestrated smear campaign,” Mehlhorn said. “They could be a $400 million company right now if not for the slander and the smears.”

The company’s suit against Newsmax — the far smaller of the two, owned by Trump ally Chris Ruddy — is scheduled to go to trial in Delaware Superior Court in the fall. Newsmax has said that its lawyers will demonstrate at trial that its news coverage “never embraced stolen election claims.”

Smartmatic also recently settled a lawsuit against the far-right cable network One America News for an undisclosed amount.

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