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.

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Historian goes on Newsmax and says Biden’s dog is ‘dirty’ and ‘unlike a presidential dog’

Champ Biden
  • Newsmax host Greg Kelly said Biden’s dog Champ looks like it’s from “the junyard.”
  • A guest on Kelly’s show said Champ looks “dirty and disheveled” and “unlike a presidential dog.”
  • Their comments on Champ prompted a wave of criticism and mockery on Twitter.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Newsmax host Greg Kelly and a guest on his show on Friday went after the appearance of President Joe Biden’s dog, Champ, prompting a wave of criticism and ridicule on Twitter. 

Kelly said that Champ, a German Shepherd, looks like he’s “from the junkyard.”

“Did you see the dog? I wanted to show you something I noticed. Doesn’t he look a little rough? I love dogs, but this dog needs a bath and a comb and all kinds of love and care. I’ve never seen a dog in the White House like this. I remember Buddy, I remember Milly, I remember lots of dogs, but not a dog who seems … I don’t know. I don’t know how much love and care he is getting. This dog looks like, I’m sorry, like it’s from the junkyard,” Kelly said.

Kelly then turned to his guests, including presidential historian and Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, asking for their thoughts on Biden’s canine. 

Shirley said Champ looks “dirty and disheveled” and “unlike a presidential dog.”

The segment and Shirley’s comments on Champ generated quite a stir on social media, with many questioning why Newsmax brought on historians to discuss the appearance of the president’s dog.

 

Shirley and Newsmax did not immediately respond to separate requests for comment from Insider.

Though not nearly as well-known as Fox News in terms of right-wing news outlets, Newsmax grew in prominence among many conservatives in 2020 as it amplified then-President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of mass voter fraud.

In December, as Newsmax faced potential legal actions over false election claims it gave oxygen to, the outlet issued a statement that said it had “no evidence” to support outlandish fraud claims against two voting-machine companies.

Trump gave one of his first post-presidency interviews to Newsmax this week, during which he reiterated his false assertion that the 2020 election was “stolen” and “rigged.” Claims like this from Trump helped catalyze a fatal insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, which led to the former president’s second impeachment. 

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Dominion’s lawyers demand Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Parler preserve posts by Trump and other far-right figures, ahead of threatened defamation lawsuits

Giuliani Fox News interview

Lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems sent letters Thursday to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Parler, asking them to preserve posts by more than a dozen high-profile far-right individuals and news outlets ahead of threatened defamation lawsuits.

“A number of posts on your website must be preserved because they are relevant to our client’s libel claims; these claims are based on false accusations that Dominion rigged the 2020 election,” lawyers from the firm Clare Locke, which represents Dominion, said in the letters.

The lawyers said that, between November and January, then-President Donald Trump, his campaign, attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Lin Wood, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, prominent QAnon adherents Ron and Jim Watkins, and far-right commentator Dan Bongino all posted content that could be relevant to Dominion’s defamation lawsuits.

Read more: Election-fraud liars are scrambling to avoid lawsuits, but they can’t retract the damage they’ve done

Dominion makes voting machines and has been the target of conspiracy theories, extensively amplified by Trump and his allies, that the company rigged the election.

Last month, Dominion filed defamation lawsuits against Giuliani for $1.3 billion and Powell for another $1.3 billion, and had sent letters threatening to sue various pro-Trump media figures.

In the letters, Dominion’s lawyers said “more will follow.”

Dominion also asked the social media companies to preserve posts and data from the accounts of: Fox News and Fox anchors Sean Hannity, Jeannine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs; far-right news outlets One America News Network, The Epoch Times, Rebel News, Newsmax, and Newsmax anchor Greg Kelly; Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis; former national security advisor Michael Flynn, entrepreneur Jovan Pulitzer, discredited election analyst Russell Ramsland, former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, and conservative talk radio host John Catsimatidis.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Dominion sends letters threatening defamation lawsuits to Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and other pro-Trump media figures

Read the original article on Business Insider

Advertisers face a fraught start to the year

Hi and welcome to this weekly edition of Insider Advertising, where we track the big stories in media and advertising. I’m Lucia Moses, deputy editor.

Remember you can sign up to get this newsletter daily here

This week: Advertisers are in the hot seat, the rise of Newsmax’s Greg Kelly, and creators warm to Instagram Reels.

National Guard inauguration
Virginia National Guard soldiers are issued their M4 rifles and live ammunition on the east front of the U.S. Capitol on January 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Advertisers are back in the hot seat

The inauguration, once a time for brands to show patriotism and unity, has become fraught with risk.

Some big advertisers are getting pressured by investors to lean on the big platforms for their role in spreading conspiracies and hate that led to the Capitol riots. 

And backers of last summer’s ad boycott of Facebook are talking of resuming their pressure campaign on advertisers to stop spending on the platform.

As the boycott showed, advertisers are loath to quit the platforms they think are essential to their business.

Many advertisers eventually tiptoed back onto Facebook, with carefully worded statements that it was doing better at curbing hate and misinformation. The boycott barely impacted Facebook because advertisers are too fragmented a group to make an impact with their dollars.

But the riots have drawn attention to other enablers of extremism, from the Silicon Valley giants that provided the pipes for right-wing platform Parler to cable companies that distribute pro-Trump content. The boycott organizers are back, demanding the platforms permanently ban Trump.

So while most of the scrutiny has been on the tech giants for their role in enabling toxic content, advertisers are likely to stay in the spotlight of this storm.

Read more here:


greg kelly newsmax 2x1 v2

Inside the rise of Newsmax’s Greg Kelly

Aaron Short profiled the lively local morning show host-turned-far-right defender of Donald Trump.

He’s the face of Newsmax, a fringe cable network that aims to compete with Fox News for conservative viewers.

From Aaron’s story:

On Newsmax, Kelly is the plainspoken outsider railing against the hubris of media elites. But the broadcaster owes his longevity in journalism to family and political connections. He has also been incredibly lucky. He was lucky to get hired by Fox News and tapped to be a local morning anchor when its then-CEO Roger Ailes was friendly with his father. He was lucky to get another gig in cable because the company’s CEO was revamping its lineup. And he was lucky Donald Trump liked him and promoted his show.  

Trump will soon leave office but Newsmax has become devoted to promoting the reactionary forces that backed him. Kelly has become a vessel of right-wing fury perpetuating a false political myth with deadly consequences, and his audience is only growing.

Read the rest here: Ridiculed, overlooked, and under-estimated. As Newsmax’s biggest Trump booster, Greg Kelly may finally be getting his revenge on the ‘fake news’ establishment


Instagram Reels
Instagram Reels

Creators warm to Instagram’s Reels

Instagram’s TikTok competitor launched in August 2020 to mixed reviews, with The New York Times famously calling it a “dud.”

It may be too soon to write off what might have seemed like yet another failed copycat attempt by Instagram parent Facebook. Some creators are telling Sydney Bradley that they’ve cracked the code on using it to grow their audience and many are calling it a “magic bullet.”

The change could be in part because Instagram has been whispering in creators’ ears, telling them how to optimize the algo.

Still, it’s not a zero sum game – creators realize it’s important to keep using both apps.

“I think that’s one of the most crucial things that you need to do as a creator,” said one. “You have to diversify.” 

Read more: Instagram creators say they’re getting supercharged audience growth by posting Reels: ‘I haven’t had this growth in a long time’


More stories we’re reading:

Thanks for reading, and see you back here next week.

– Lucia

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Rudy Giuliani tries to distance Trump from Sidney Powell’s conspiracy theories, despite reports that she has been in multiple recent White House meetings

sidney powell trump giuliani election
Sidney Powell, an attorney later disavowed by the Trump campaign, participates in a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. November 19, 2020

  • Rudy Giuliani on Monday sought to distance himself and President Trump from Sidney Powell, a lawyer who has been spouting conspiracy theories related to the 2020 election..
  • Powell has been spotted at the White House several times in the past week, where she has pitched Trump baseless allegations about election fraud.
  • “Let me say definitively that Sidney Powell is not part of our legal team, she hasn’t been for five weeks,” Giuliani told Newsmax. “She speaks for herself.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sidney Powell’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election – that US intelligence agencies collaborated with Venezuela and maybe China to rig voting machines for President-elect Joe Biden – are too extreme for even Rudy Giuliani, with the president’s personal attorney once again seeking to distance his client from a lawyer who has been spotted at the White House multiple times over the past week.

“Let me say definitively that Sidney Powell is not part of our legal team, she hasn’t been for five weeks,” Giuliani said in an appearance on the right-wing cable channel Newsmax. “She is not a special counsel for the president, she does not speak for the president, nor does she speak for the administration. She speaks for herself.”

Last month, Giuliani himself appeared alongside Powell at a news conference where she spouted unfounded theories about election fraud – claims that have been rejected by every court that has heard them. Days later, Trump’s legal team cut ties with Powell, saying she “is practicing law on her own.”

Despite this, President Trump himself has been meeting with her. On Sunday, reporters spotted her leaving the White House after pitching an executive order that would ostensibly allow the president to seize and examine voting machines. Today, outgoing Attorney General Bill Barr rejected any basis to seize voting machines or name a special counsel to look into voter fraud, dismissing any “systemic or broad-based” election fraud.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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