This might ultimately have a much bigger impact on the future of American politics than anything that happens to Trump as an individual. In recent weeks, two voting-technology companies have each filed 10-figure lawsuits against Trump’s lawyers and his allies in the media, claiming they spread falsehoods that did tangible harm.
The impact was immediate. Newsmax, an ultraconservative TV station that has expanded its popularity by lining up to the right of Fox News, cut off an interview with the MyPillow founder Mike Lindell last week as he attacked Dominion — something that commentators had done on the station many times before. Then, over the weekend, Fox Business sidelined Lou Dobbs, one of Trump’s fiercest TV news defenders and a defendant named in the Smartmatic lawsuit.
Jonathan Peters, a media law professor at the University of Georgia, said that unlike many libel lawsuits, the Dominion and Smartmatic cases do not appear to be publicity stunts; they have a firm legal basis. Because the suits seem to be serious, Peters said, “this is a corrective for companies and individuals being sued — and for those not being sued it is a shot across the bow.”
But in a media landscape permanently altered by polarization, and by Trump’s indifference to facts, Fox News and other conservative broadcasters face significant competition from popular YouTubers and Twitter users, who have much more leeway to express potentially harmful views.