U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Newsmax ordered to turn over journalists’ texts in Dominion defamation suit

Incident Details

Date of Incident
December 1, 2023
Newsmax Media

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of the order issued Dec. 1, 2023, ordering Newsmax to produce its journalists’ personal texts and other electronic communications as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the company.

December 1, 2023

Newsmax was ordered on Dec. 1, 2023, to turn over its journalists’ personal texts and other electronic communications, as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ ongoing defamation suit against the conservative news network.

Dominion filed the $1.6 billion lawsuit in 2021, alleging that Newsmax defamed the voting machine company when the news outlet falsely claimed that Dominion had rigged the 2020 presidential election.

According to court records reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, one of Dominion’s early discovery requests was for all documents and communications concerning mentions of the company on Newsmax since November 2018. Newsmax objected to the request, stating in part that it would violate multiple states’ constitutional free speech protections and reporter’s privilege laws.

In August 2023, Dominion filed a motion to compel Newsmax to review and turn over texts and other non-email communications of current employees, including those on the employees’ personal devices.

“This is not a case where a bright line separates business-related and personal documents,” Dominion argued. “One of the central issues is whether any of Newsmax’s media professionals expressed, behind the scenes, disbelief about the election-related lies the network was airing publicly.”

Newsmax objected to the request, arguing in court filings that it had already searched records and communications that were “in furtherance of Newsmax business,” as ordered by a special master in the parallel Smartmatic litigation. It added that it was only able to do so because employees had cooperated voluntarily once they were assured that their private data would not be collected, reviewed or produced.

The news network added that it has no custody or control over its employees’ personal devices, and lacks the “legal right or practical ability to demand employees turn over such devices.”

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis overruled Newsmax’s arguments on Dec. 1, ordering the news network to produce the private communications.

In a statement emailed to the Tracker, Newsmax said it is examining its options in light of the judge’s ruling.

“Newsmax remains deeply concerned about the chilling effect that this litigation is having and will continue to have on the freedom of the press and how it covers largely live news events and controversies,” the statement said.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].