A video posted by CNN Business on February 3rd shows a clip of an appearance by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell on American Agenda on Newsmax. Lindell had come on the show to talk about being banned by Twitter but shifted the conversation to voting irregularities. Titles overlay-ed on the video by CNN Business helpfully lay out the facts:
“Newsmax anchor Bob Sellers walked off set during an interview with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Lindell, a supporter of Donald Trump, was there to talk about cancel culture after being banned by Twitter. But the conversation quickly devolved as Lindell railed about unsubstantiated election fraud claims.”
When Lindell mentioned Dominion Voting Systems, Sellers tried to redirect his guest.
“We at Newsmax have not been able to verify any of those kinds of allegations we just want to let people know that there is nothing substantive that we’ve seen. Let me read you something.
“While there were some clear evidence of some cases of vote fraud and election irregularities, the election results in every state were certified and Newsmax accepts the results as legal and final. The courts have also supported that view.
“We wanted to talk to you about cancel culture… we don’t want to re-litigate the allegations that you’re making.”
Titles on the video further explained “separately, Dominion has sent Lindell a letter warning that litigation is imminent.”
The video shows Sellers’ frustration at having to shift his guest back to safer ground before walking off the set. CNN tries to make Lindell look as if he’s too wacky even for an outfit like Newsmax.
I suspect that the reason for Sellers’ discomfort is that he was being forced to read something that goes against his views. It is also very similar to a statement posted on commentary site American Thinker at the behest of DVS:
American Thinker and contributors… published pieces on www.AmericanThinker.com that falsely accuse Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. of conspiring to steal the November 2020 election from Donald Trump. These pieces rely on discredited sources who have peddled debunked theories about Dominion’s supposed ties to Venezuela, fraud on Dominion’s machines that resulted in massive vote switching or weighted votes, and other claims falsely stating that there is credible evidence that Dominion acted fraudulently.
These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact. Industry experts and public officials alike have confirmed that Dominion conducted itself appropriately and that there is simply no evidence to support these claims.
It was wrong for us to publish these false statements. We apologize to Dominion for all of the harm this caused them and their employees. We also apologize to our readers for abandoning 9 journalistic principles and misrepresenting Dominion’s track record and its limited role in tabulating votes for the November 2020 election. We regret this grave error.
The statements from both American Thinker and Newsmax read as if made under threat of lawsuits with potentially devastating consequences for the two media organizations. Similar announced lawsuits by DVS against Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani smack of the same strategy.
Corporate leadership has a responsibility to maximize the owner’s value. That means protecting a company’s reputation, the value of its brand, and prospects for future business. C-suite executives who damage the brand or lose out on business are themselves likely to get sued by shareholders. A company that vigorously defends itself by disproving false allegations against it is doing the right thing.
This is different. It has the feel of a SLAPP.
SLAPP, or strategic lawsuits against public participation, are essentially legal actions to silence opponents which likely do not have the resources for to pay for costs of a protracted legal battle.
In “The Corporate Defamation Plaintiff in the Era of SLAPPs: Revisiting New York Times v. Sullivan,” D. Mark Jackson, explains how corporations have been making greater use of the defamation tort since the 1964 NY Times v. Sullivan decision:
Intimidation lawsuits have become a major weapon in the corporate arsenal. Using defamation suits against civic-minded citizens, groups,and publishers, corporations have drastically squelched citizen and news media involvement. In this way, the defamation suit has become a tool to ward off public criticism and oversight.
Lawyers for Dominion certainly got the attention of those two smaller outfits which definitely do not have the resources for the fight and would be ruined if a judgment were found against them.
Mark Steyn, himself a victim of a lawsuit from someone who disagrees with his public utterances explains the backstory of the SLAPP:
It was coined in the Eighties by Penelope Canan and George W. Pring at the University of Denver, and in the Nineties they turned it into a book: SLAPPs: Getting Sued for Speaking Out. And it proved so influential that by the Oughts various jurisdictions were passing “anti-SLAPP laws,” to the point where they’re now on the books of 28 states, one territory, and the District of Columbia. The purpose of an anti-SLAPP law is to get such suits quickly dismissed.
His experience shows that the process isn’t quite as smooth and quick as people would like. But still, the definition of the SLAPP is there and the process by which to respond is already available in more than half of all states. I suspect that these suits initiated by the legal team at DVS fit the definition of a SLAPP and may get tossed if any of them makes it to a courtroom.
Until that happens, individuals and small publishers are going to have to face Goliath, and his SLAPP, alone.
D. Mark Jackson, The Corporate Defamation Plaintiff in the Era of SLAPPs: Revisiting New York Times v. Sullivan, 9 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 491 (2001), https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1366&context=wmborj