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Following far-right smears, voting-machine companies push back

After losing, Trump and his team have directed fury at voting-machine companies. This week, they started a new round of pushback.
Image: Voters Go To The Polls In Illinois Presidential Primary
Voters casts their ballots at ChiArts High School on March 15, in Chicago.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

In recent years, Donald Trump and his allies have occasionally made specific private companies the targets of political attacks. The outgoing president has, for example, lashed out at Nordstrom, Amazon.com, Goodyear, GM, Harley-Davidson, et al.

But in the wake of his 2020 defeat, Trump has directed much of his fury at voting-machine companies, which the Republican falsely believes conspired against him as part of a nefarious scheme. This week, the companies started a new round of pushback. The New York Times reported yesterday:

Dominion Voting Systems sent a blistering letter on Wednesday night to the right-wing lawyer Sidney Powell, demanding that she publicly retract her "wild, knowingly baseless and false accusations" about the company's voting machines, which have repeatedly found themselves at the heart of conspiracy theories surrounding the election. The letter, a preparatory step to formal legal action, accused Ms. Powell of engaging in "reckless disinformation" about Dominion's machines at news conferences, rallies in support of President Trump and on conservative media outlets like Fox News, Newsmax and Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

Dominion isn't the only private entity making these demands. CNBC reported this week:

Smartmatic, the election technology company that has become embroiled in unfounded conspiracy theories about rigged voting in the 2020 presidential race, on Monday said it is issuing legal notices to three conservative media outlets demanding retractions "for publishing false and defamatory statements."

A Smartmatic press statement noted that it sent letters to Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network, alerting the conservative outlets to the fact that Smartmatic "is reserving all its legal rights and remedies, including its right to pursue defamation and disparagement claims."

The legal notice specifically accused Fox News of engaging "in a concerted disinformation campaign against Smartmatic."

Some of the pushback appears to be part of an effort to simply set the record straight. Trump and his allies continue to peddle bizarre theories about these companies, despite lacking any evidence whatsoever, and despite the frequency with which the ridiculous claims are discredited. Like any private entity facing a public misinformation campaign, Dominion and Smartmatic appear eager to mount a reality-based defense.

There also appears to be a safety element to this. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that some on the far-right have targeted specific employees with violent threats, and one Dominion security director -- who, again, did nothing wrong -- has been forced to go into hiding for more than a month after finding himself at the center of right-wing conspiracy theories with no basis in fact.

But the nature of the pushback also suggests these companies might be planning an actual litigation strategy. If the cases materialize, they'll be worth watching closely.