Fox News and Fox Business, which have mentioned Dominion 792 times and Smartmatic 118 times between them, according to a search of the service TVEyes, appear to be taking the threat seriously. Over the weekend, they broadcast one of the strangest three-minute segments I’ve ever seen on television, with a disembodied and anonymous voice flatly asking a series of factual questions about Smartmatic of an expert on voting machines, Eddie Perez, who debunks a series of false claims. The segment, which appeared scripted to persuade a very literal-minded judge or jury that the network was being fair, aired over the weekend on the shows hosted by Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo, where Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell had made their most outlandish claims.

Newsmax said in an emailed statement that the channel “has never made a claim of impropriety about Smartmatic, its ownership or software” and that the company was merely providing a “forum for public concerns and discussion.” An OAN spokeswoman didn’t respond to an inquiry.

I’m reluctant to cheer on a defamation case against news organizations, even networks that appear to be amplifying dangerous lies. Companies and politicians often exploit libel law to threaten and silence journalists, and at the very least subject them to expensive and draining litigation.

And defamation cases can also collide with subjects of genuine public interest, as in the most prominent case I’ve been involved in, when a businessman sued me and my colleagues at BuzzFeed News for publishing the Steele Dossier, while acknowledging that it was unverified. There, a judge ruled that the document was an official record that BuzzFeed was entitled to publish.

In this controversy, even the voting companies’ worst critics find the coverage wildly distorted.

“They’ve been mining every paper I’ve ever written and any deposition I’ve ever given and it’s nonsense,” said Douglas W. Jones, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa who has long argued that voting software isn’t as secure as its vendors claim. He said Ms. Powell’s cybersecurity expert, Navid Keshavarz-Nia, called him on Nov. 15, apparently seeing him as a potential ally, and spent an hour going point-by-point over claims that would wind up in a deposition. “He seemed sane, but every time I would ask him for evidence that would support one of these allegations he would squirm off to a different allegation,” Mr. Jones said.

As the conversation wore on, he wondered, “Was someone trying to pull a ‘Borat’ on me?”

But the allegations are no joke for Smartmatic and Dominion. Mr. Mugica said he had taken worried calls from governments and politicians all over the world, concerned that Mr. Trump’s poison will seep into their politics and turn a Smartmatic contract into a liability.

“This potentially could destroy it all,” he said.

Mr. Mugica wouldn’t say whether he has made up his mind to sue. Mr. Connolly said that he has “a lot of people watching a lot of videos right now,” and that he’s researching whether to file in New York, Florida or elsewhere. I asked Mr. Mugica if he’d settle for an apology.

“Is the apology going to reverse the false belief of tens of millions of people who believe in these lies?” he asked. “Then I could be satisfied.”



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