A Venezuelan businessman has sued the Fox News for defamation, claiming the network falsely and “xenophobically” linked him to the 2020 U.S. presidential election and claims of voter fraud.
In a complaint filed earlier this month, Majed Khalil says that former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and guest Sidney Powell—both supporters of former President Donald Trump—linked Khalil to baseless claims of voter fraud in the weeks and months following 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Khalil says the defamatory statements “were published and republished on a Fox social media account and on Dobbs’ show, and rebroadcast” on the network’s business channel on Dec. 10, 2020.
“A Lie Totally Devoid of Reality”
Khalil says in the lawsuit that Dobbs and Powell said that Khalil was one of four people who worked with voting software companies Dominion and Smartmatic to “rig or fix the results” of the election in favor of Biden. Naming him, Khalil alleges, was part of a “concerted, fraudulent effort” on behalf of Fox, Dobbs, Powell, and others “to overturn the demonstrable and irrefutable fact that Donald Trump had lost the election, in which there had been no rigging or manipulation of the election results.”
In the complaint, Khalil says that when Smartmatic and Dominion pushed back against claims from Dobbs and others, the defendants doubled down and “falsely identified Mr. Khalil, a Venezuelan businessman who … had no involvement in, or connection to, any United States election and no business dealings whatsoever with Dominion or Smartmatic[.]”
Khalil says that the defendants “went so far as to bizarrely and falsely claim that Plaintiff was involved in creation of Smartmatic election software and hardware that allegedly was used to siphon off votes during the 2020 Presidential election, a lie totally devoid of reality[.]”
Khalil says that the defendants’ actions were “even more egregious and sinister than garden-variety defamation.”
The allegations against Khalil were “fabricated by Defendants out of thin air to xenophobically add another foreign ‘name’ to the manufactured charges of a non-existent Smartmatic or Dominion conspiracy with Venezuelan officials and private citizens,” the complaint says. “In the false parallel reality that Defendants have concocted, a private individual, simply by being a foreigner with a Venezuelan nationality and having a foreign-sounding name, is cast as a ‘COO’ of a non-existent foreign election scheme.”
According to the complaint, Khalil has no business dealings or affiliation with Smartmatic, and is not a shareholder in either Smartmatic or Dominion. He has never spoken to any of Smartmatic’s or Dominoin’s owners and is not aware of ever having spoken to any employees of either company.
Khalil says he was first identified in a promotion for a Dec. 10, 2020 broadcast of Lou Dobbs Tonight, featuring an interview with Powell. That tweet said the 2020 presidential election was a “cyber Pearl Harbor”—a reference to the surprise 1941 attack by the Japanese military on the U.S. naval base of the same name in Hawaii—and identified Khalil and others as the perpetrators.
“People need to get familiar with four names,” text attached to the tweet read. It identified Khalil as “Khalil Majid Mazoub” and described him as a “Venezuelan of Lebanese origin, who is the right hand and business front man of Jorge Rodriguez. He has been the effective ‘COO’ of the election project, under [Hugo] Chavez and [Nicolas] Maduro.”
The tweet also identified Jorge Rodriguez, a Venezuelan politician, and two “technical experts”: Antonio Mugica, identified as the CEO of Smartmatic, and Gustavo Reyes Zumeta, identified as an “American-born Venezuelan, who came up with the idea, and designed, and created the programs.”
“By this tweet,” Khalil’s complaint says, “Fox and Dobbs falsely told their millions of followers that Plaintiff engaged in a plot with three other individuals to attack the U.S. democratic system by manipulating the 2020 U.S. Presidential election results.”
According to the lawsuit, the Dec. 10, 2020 segment ran with the graphic “Four Names You Need to Know According to Sidney Powell.”
Khalil’s complaint alleges that the text identifying him is false in multiple ways:
“With respect to Mr. Khalil, the document was false in at least the following respects: (i) Mr. Khalil is not a “political leader;” (ii) Mr. Khalil is not the “right hand and business front” of Jorge Rodriquez; (iii) Mr. Khalil at no point was involved in any election project in the United States, and was not “the effective ‘COO’ of the election project under Chávez and Maduro;” (iv) Mr. Khalil was not a “collaborator” in the “execut[ion of] an electoral 9-11 against the United States,” as no such “electoral 9-11” occurred; (v) Mr. Khalil is not “a liaison with Hezbollah;” and (vi) Mr. Khalil has had no business dealings or affiliation with either Smartmatic or Dominion.”
During the broadcast, Khalil alleges, Dobbs asked Powell: “You say these four individuals led the effort to rig this election. How did they do it?”
Powell responded by saying Khalil and the others “designed and developed the Smartmatic and Dominion programs and machines that include a controller module that allows people to log in and manipulate the vote even as it’s happening.”
Powell then told Dobbs that she would provide him with “stunning” evidence of her claims later that night.
“Of course, Powell never provided any evidence of the so-called ‘cyber Pearl Harbor’ attack on the 2020 election and Dobbs never returned to the airways to display any of the “tremendous evidence’ he had so vigorously endorsed,” Khalil’s complaint said. “In fact, no evidence of Plaintiff’s alleged involvement in any election fraud has ever been presented by any of the Defendants because no such evidence exists, which Defendants knew full well when they claimed to have such evidence already at the time of the broadcast.”
Khalil says that none of the defendants tried to contact him at any time to verify any of these claims.
“Had any of the Defendants contacted Plaintiff, he would have confirmed that the answer to all of the foregoing was ‘no,'” the complaint says.
Khalil says that despite the on-air pre-recorded statements that purported to walk back some of the claims about Dominion and Smartmatic, when it came to Khalil, “Fox’s on-air talent were silent.”
Khalil says the statements made about him are per se defamation because “they impute to the Plaintiff the commission of a serious crime, specifically, participating in a conspiracy to commit election fraud in the 2020 U.S. election.”
Khalil also says that the defendants’ actions were deliberately intended to cause damage to him personally, and implies that Dobbs’ and Powell’s invocation of certain names and buzzwords were no more than thinly-veiled racism:
“Defendants’ injection of Plaintiff’s name into their false election fraud conspiracy theory appears to be based solely upon the fact that Plaintiff is a ‘Venezuelan of Lebanese origin’ with a foreign-sounding name,” the complaint says. “In peddling their false claims of a ‘cyber Pearl Harbor’ perpetrated by Dominion and Smartmatic in the 2020 election, Defendants repeatedly and increasingly invoked what can only be described as conservative ‘trigger words.’
For example, Defendants falsely claimed that: the (non-existent) election scheme was in service to Hugo Chávez and Maduro; China had injected millions of dollars into Smartmatic right before the 2020 election; and George Soros, a prominent Democrat, was involved in the (non-existent) scheme to rig the 2020 election. Defendants’ identification of Plaintiff as an individual involved in, and acting as “COO” of, the (non-existent) election scheme is an outrageous false embellishment Defendants propounded to invoke the xenophobic ire of their audience and further advance Defendants’ own false election scheme.”
Since president Joe Biden’s win in November 2020, Trump and his allies, including Dobbs and Powell, have continued to push widely-debunked voter fraud conspiracy theories about the results. Both Smartmatic and Dominion have sued Fox News and various current and former hosts over some of these claims. Earlier this month, a Delaware judge denied Fox’s effort to dismiss the Dominion lawsuit, saying that, based on Dominion’s pleadings, he “can infer that Fox intended to avoid the truth.”
Khalil’s allegations of the defendants’ xenophobia aren’t limited to him. In his complaint, Khalil notes that Powell also pointed fingers at George Soros and China, both regular targets of conservative criticism.
“Powell continued by invoking additional xenophobic and not-so-thinly veiled anti-Semitic sentiments to embellish upon her false claims, stating: ‘We know that $400 million of money came into Smartmatic from China only a few weeks before the election [and] that there are George Soros connections to the entire endeavor,'” the complaint says. “In fact, as Smartmatic has pointed out, Smartmatic has not received funding from China, and has not provided election technology or software in connection with any election in China. Similarly, the reference to George Soros is unfortunate and misleading anti-Semitic innuendo by Powell: Soros has had no involvement with either Dominion or Smartmatic.”
Fox cancelled Dobbs’ show and pulled the host from the network in February.
Khalil originally filed his complaint in New York state court on Dec. 1. Fox successfully removed the case to federal court the following day. Khalil’s complaint doesn’t request a specific amount in damages, but leaves it open “to be determined at trial.”
Khalil is represented in New York by the law firm of Brown Rudnick LLP. An attorney for Powell did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment, and representatives for Fox declined to comment.
According to court records, responses from Dobbs, Powell, and Fox are due in January.
Read Khalil’s complaint, below.
[Image via Khalil v. Fox, et. al. lawsuit]
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