Newsmax settles a defamation lawsuit from a Dominion executive at the center of election conspiracy theories and issues an apology

Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy attends a dinner with the US president and business leaders in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 7, 2018.
Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy attends a dinner with Donald Trump and business leaders.

  • Dominion executive Eric Coomer reached a settlement with Newsmax, which he sued for defamation.
  • Newsmax pushed false theories Coomer was in an “Antifa conference call” to rig the election.
  • Coomer is still suing others, and his legal efforts are separate from Dominion’s own lawsuits.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An executive at Dominion Voting Systems moved to dismiss Newsmax as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit Friday after reaching a settlement with the right-wing media organization.

It’s the first such settlement from a news organization in a defamation lawsuit filed over 2020 election conspiracy theories.

The lawsuit, filed by Dominion’s head of product strategy and security Eric Coomer, is among several filed over false claims that election technology companies like Dominion rigged the election against former president Donald Trump and in favor of now-President Joe Biden.

Coomer sued Newsmax in December in state court in Colorado over false claims that he took part in an “Antifa conference call” to rig the 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump. He revised his lawsuit in February to bolster his claims against Newsmax, as Insider previously reported.

On Friday, Newsmax issued a retraction and apology on its website saying it found “no evidence” that earlier claims about Coomer and the 2020 election were true.

“There are several facts that our viewers should be aware of. 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,” the statement reads. “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.”

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in the court filings reviewed by Insider. A representative for Coomer declined to comment on the settlement terms. A representative for Newsmax declined to comment and directed Insider to its apology statement.

Coomer went into hiding after receiving death threats over the conspiracies

Coomer first became the subject of conspiracy theories after Joe Oltmann, a right-wing political operative, claimed without evidence that he was a member of “Antifa” – a loosely linked group of left-wing activists who oppose fascist movements – and worked to rig the 2020 election. Numerous lawsuits, recounts, and investigations have turned up no widespread evidence of irregularities in the 2020 election.

Oltmann’s baseless claims spread like wildfire in right-wing media circles, and Coomer went into hiding after receiving numerous death threats. Coomer sued more than a dozen right-wing media figures he claims were responsible for pushing the conspiracy theories. He alleged defamation, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and civil conspiracy over the claims.

dominion ceo john poulos
President and CEO of Election Systems & Software Tom Burt, President and CEO of Dominion Voting Systems John Poulos, President and CEO of Hart InterCivic Julie Mathis testify during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Newsmax had steadfastly claimed it did nothing wrong as recently as February, when a spokesperson told Insider that Coomer’s lawsuit was politically motivated. The media organization is owned and run by Christopher Ruddy, a close friend of Trump’s.

In a statement, Cain and Skarnulis PLLC, the law firm representing Coomer, said he continues to receive death threats.

“Six months after the election, Dr. Coomer continues to receive death threats and harassment from those who believe the false conspiracy theories,” the statement reads.

All of the other people and organizations Coomer has sued – including Oltmann, Trump’s campaign, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, One America News Network, and others – remain defendants in the lawsuit.

“With respect to the remaining defendants, Dr. Coomer is seeking damages to his reputation and livelihood and, once certified by the court, punitive damages,” the statement from Coomer’s law firm reads.

Coomer’s lawsuit is distinct from the legal efforts of Dominion itself, which is represented by the defamation firm Clare Locke LLP. Dominion has sued Fox News, Powell, Giuliani, and MyPillow mogul Mike Lindell. Smartmatic, another election technology caught up in election conspiracy theories, has filed its own defamation lawsuits against right-wing media figures over the falsehoods.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A Dominion exec forced into hiding due to death threats from Trump fans is beefing up his defamation lawsuit over election conspiracy theories

stop steal rally capitol january 5 washington dc
A “Stop the Steal” rally on January 5, where Joe Oltmann spoke.

  • Dominion Voting Systems executive Eric Coomer went into hiding following threats against his life.
  • Conspiracy theorists alleged he took part in an “Antifa conference call” to rig the 2020 election.
  • Coomer quietly updated a defamation lawsuit with new claims about Newsmax and Joe Oltmann.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Dominion executive who went into hiding in December quietly filed an updated defamation lawsuit against right-wing media figures who spread conspiracy theories about him, making new claims against the far-right media outlet Newsmax.

The lawsuit from Eric Coomer, the director of product strategy and security at Dominion Voting Systems, was first filed in December.

The amended lawsuit was filed in February but received scant attention. It adds more detail about the lengths the conservative operative Joe Oltmann went to push a baseless conspiracy theory about Coomer, as well as the degree to which Newsmax – owned by Trump’s friend Christopher Ruddy – played a role in spreading it.

The lawsuit accuses Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, conspiracy theorist attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and right-wing media outlets like Newsmax, One America News, and The Gateway Pundit of boosting false claims about him. The defendants in the lawsuit, Coomer says, all pushed a false conspiracy theory from Oltmann, also a defendant in the lawsuit, that Coomer participated in an “Antifa conference call” for how to rig the 2020 presidential election.

While Oltmann initially said he has a recording of Coomer participating in the call, he’s never produced it and there’s no evidence it exists. Coomer says he has no involvement with Antifa – a loosely linked group of left-leaning activists who oppose fascist movements – and did not participate in any such call. There is also no evidence the results of the 2020 election were rigged, or that Dominion Voting Systems or members of Antifa made any effort to rig them.

But Oltmann’s claims spread like wildfire among far-right media circles, and Coomer went into hiding in December amid the threats against him and his family. Coomer filed his lawsuit shortly afterward “in an effort to unwind as much of the damage as possible done to me, my family, my life, and my livelihood as a result of the numerous false public statements that I was somehow responsible for ‘rigging’ the 2020 presidential election,” he said in a statement at the time.

Newsmax hosted Oltmann on its shows

Newsmax hosted Oltmann on Michelle Malkin’s show “Sovereign Nation” in November where she did not contradict his claims about Coomer and appeared to support them, according to the lawsuit.

A few days later, Newsmax hosted Powell on Howie Carr’s show where she parroted Oltmann’s claims. The right-wing network hosted numerous guests throughout the month of December who made the same false claims about Coomer, the lawsuit alleges.

“Newsmax repeatedly promoted these false allegations of voter fraud. Newsmax took no efforts to verify or corroborate the false allegations against Dr. Coomer and Dominion before publishing them and disregarded reliable sources establishing the contrary,” the lawsuit reads. “It had no credible evidence of any ‘Antifa conference call;’ that Dr. Coomer was part of this purported call; or that Dr. Coomer committed election fraud or subverted the results of the election.”

newsmax michelle malkin
Michelle Malkin hosted Joe Oltmann on her Newsmax show.

Dominion removed information about specific employees from the web in response to threats. Newsmax made that appear nefarious, the lawsuit says.

“Newsmax suggested nefarious intent when noting that Dominion had ‘scrubbed [Dr. Coomer] from their website.'” the lawsuit alleges. “In reality, Dr. Coomer had not been on Dominion’s website for years and Dominion employees’ identities were removed from third party marketing sites as an essential safety precaution given the numerous death threats already targeting them.”

In a statement to Insider, Newsmax described Coomer’s lawsuit as politically motivated.

“Newsmax exercised its First Amendment rights when it covered and reported on the electoral challenge claims made by President Trump, his attorneys and others, often relating to court documents,” a representative for Newsmax said. “Newsmax has consistently reported that Dominion was challenging claims made by the President and his lawyers, and we never embraced any claims about them as true or about Mr. Coomer.”

Oltmann doubled down at a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally ahead of the January 6 insurrection

While Newsmax was slow to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, it stepped back in response to legal claims. After Smartmatic, another election-technology company targeted in conspiracy theories, threatened to sue Newsmax, the media organization released a video “clarifying” its reporting and affirming that the 2020 election was sound.

But Oltmann doubled down. On January 5, he spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC ahead of the insurrection at the Capitol. In his remarks, he continued to push false conspiracy theories about Dominion and the election, and said it was “really fun” that Coomer was suing him, according to the lawsuit.

On January 26, Oltmann published a post on his Facebook page that appeared to threaten both Coomer and his attorneys, writing “Oh, and hi Eric Coomer. I’m never going to stop. You have no idea what information I have or how your loose lips and arrogance is your ultimate weakness.” He also said in a February 4 Facebook post that he would post a motion to dismiss Coomer’s lawsuit, but never did. Other posts on his Facebook page often reference elements of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Capitol protest
Coomer’s lawsuit says that the January 6 insurrection demonstrates the real-life threat stemming from election conspiracy theories.

Oltmann told Insider he stands by his claims about Oltmann and Dominion and said he doesn’t care about the lawsuit, calling it “window dressing to distract the public from the truth.”

Coomer’s lawsuit cites Oltmann’s fringe beliefs, and the January 6 insurrection, as evidence that the claims should be taken seriously by the court.

“Defendants’ conduct has resulted in direct harm to Dr. Coomer through their encouragement of violence and threats. This harm is not hypothetical. A direct manifestation of the harm caused by Defendants’ conduct is the armed insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021,” the lawsuit says. “Lies about election fraud, including lies about Dr. Coomer, incited the insurrection. The open use of force by the militants further confirms the seriousness of the threats being made against Dr. Coomer.”

Coomer’s lawsuit is distinct from the ones filed by Dominion. As a company, Dominion has filed separate defamation lawsuits against Powell, Giuliani, and pillow mogul Mike Lindell. Smartmatic has filed its own defamation lawsuit as well.

“Dr. Coomer’s claims are personal, as his reputation has been damaged and his safety has been threatened,” a spokesperson for Coomer told Insider. “It was important to assert those claims in court now, to let those responsible know they will be held accountable.”

Coomer is raising money on Fundly to pay for his defamation lawsuit. Both Dominion and Smartmatic have indicated they plan to pursue additional legal action, and Dominion has sent Oltmann document retention letters threatening “imminent” litigation.

This article has been updated.

Read the original article on Business Insider