Perpetuation of conspiracy theory forced Colorado man into hiding
The conservative media outlet Newsmax, which amplified former President Trump’s false allegations of election rigging and widespread voter fraud, said April 30 that there is no evidence that Dominion Voting Systems or one of its top employees, Eric Coomer, manipulated election results.
“Newsmax subsequently found no evidence that such allegations were true. Many of the states whose results were contested by the Trump campaign after the November 2020 election have conducted extensive recounts and audits, and each of these states certified the results as legal and final,” read a written statement from the outlet that is also expected to air on television.
Coomer filed a lawsuit against Newsmax for defamation in Colorado state court on Dec. 22, 2020. He withdrew that suit last week, ahead of Newmax’s apology. Coomer’s attorneys say he has reached a financial settlement, but terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
Shortly after the election, Coomer became the subject of conspiracy theories that he had used his position at Dominion to manipulate votes for Biden. He strongly denies those allegations. Coomer has been living in hiding for nearly six months after facing death threats. While he has dropped his suit against Newsmax, Coomer is still suing the Trump campaign and a number of campaign surrogates and pro-Trump media outlets, alleging defamation.
Coomer said pro-Trump cable news networks like OAN and Newsmax crossed a legal line by amplifying and appearing to endorse obvious falsehoods about him and his employer. Coomer is the Director of Product Strategy and Security for Dominion Voting Systems. The company provides election equipment to 28 states, including swing states like Georgia where Trump focused much of his post-election ire.
While there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud, millions of Americans believe President Biden did not legitimately win the presidential election.
Coomer says these false allegations elevated him to the national spotlight, destroyed his privacy and “fundamentally defamed his reputation across the country.”
In its digital retraction, Newsmax apologized for any harm its allegations caused Coomer and his family.
“Newsmax has found no evidence that Dr. Coomer interfered with Dominion voting machines or voting software in any way, nor that Dr. Coomer ever claimed to have done so,” said the statement. “Nor has Newsmax found any evidence that Dr. Coomer ever participated in any conversation with members of 'Antifa,' nor that he was directly involved with any partisan political organization.”
Dominion and another election technology company, Smartmatic, have also filed defamation lawsuits against Trump allies and pro-Trump media companies, with more likely to come. Election companies are using billion-dollar defamation lawsuits to fight false claims that they were involved in stealing the 2020 election. The companies say the flood of disinformation about the election has hurt their bottom line.
According to a recent CNN poll, 70 percent of Republicans say they do not think President Biden won enough votes to be president. However, the number of Republicans who believe that there is solid evidence of fraud dropped 8 points to 50 percent.
Republican lawmakers across the country have pushed for new laws that could make voting more difficult for millions of Americans premised on the unsubstantiated belief that there was widespread cheating in the presidential election.
There are indications that the defamation suits are starting to have an effect. In February, an anchor for Newsmax walked out on an interview with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell when he started making false claims about Dominion voting machines.
But other media companies have pledged to fight the lawsuits. Fox News has filed to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit, calling it “meritless” and a “legal shakedown designed to chill speech and punish reporting.” n
In a written statement in response to a defamation suit from Dominion, Fox News said it is proud of the network’s 2020 election coverage, which it said “stands in the highest tradition of American journalism” and said it would contest the “baseless” legal challenge.
For more from Colorado Public Radio, go to: www.cpr.org.