Under the editorial hand of founder Tom Lifson, American Thinker has long been one of my favorite right-leaning sites. I therefore watched AT go down the Dominion rabbit hole with growing incredulity. When Sidney Powell appeared as a Trump campaign lawyer at the Trump lawyers’ November 19 press conference in Michigan (transcript here), she raved about an international conspiracy centered on Dominion. “What we are really dealing with here and uncovering more by the day is the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States,” Powell alleged, and much more. “Notably the Dominion executives are nowhere to be found now,” she added.
Powell subsequently promised to “release the kraken” to prove it all up. I thought Powell was cracked. Referring to her comments, I called her allegations “a conspiracy so immense.” That was probably an understatement.
On November 26 Dominion released its own statement on Powell’s allegations. The BBC has a backgrounder on it here. Jacob Sullum recently took a look at Powell’s cracked Kraken. Sullum makes way too much of the fact that the affidavits submitted by Powell weren’t written by the affiants, but he provides a useful summary as of late December.
Dominion has retained counsel and threatened proponents of the fraud and conspiracy claims with defamation. As a public figure, Dominion doesn’t get much legal protection from false disparagement. Whereas an old-fashioned defamation defendant was required to prove up truth as a defense, the Supreme Court has erected a constitutional shield around defamatory statements involving public figures. A plaintiff in a case involving a public figure has to establish that the defendant made the false statement knowingly or recklessly without regard to its truth or falsity (i.e., “actual malice”).
On January 8 Dominion sued Powell for defamation in federal court for the District of Columbia. Dominion’s complaint in the lawsuit is posted online here.
Dominion also threatened AT with a defamation lawsuit. Yesterday Tom Lifson posted a retraction with this preface: “We received a lengthy letter from Dominion’s defamation lawyers explaining why they believe that their client has been the victim of defamatory statements. Having considered the full import of the letter, we have agreed to their request that we publish the following statement[.]” Here is the statement:
American Thinker and contributors Andrea Widburg, R.D. Wedge, Brian Tomlinson, and Peggy Ryan have published pieces on www.AmericanThinker.com that falsely accuse US Dominion Inc., Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., and Dominion Voting Systems Corporation (collectively “Dominion”) 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.
Litigation is an absurdly expensive proposition. It can easily bankrupt anybody without substantial resources at his disposal. Even so, I think one may fairly infer that the publication of the Dominion statement by AT not only represents a prudent surrender, it also points to the insubstantiality of the claims advanced against Dominion on the site and elsewhere.