Commentary

Fake News Case 'Cannot Proceed In An American Court,' Fox Tells Judge

A lawsuit accusing the cable network of spreading false information about COVID-19 is barred by the First Amendment, Fox News told a Seattle judge Thursday morning.

“I don't think it's rhetorical hyperbole to say that an objective assessment of this case demonstrates that this suit cannot proceed in an American court,” Michael Carvin, a Jones Day attorney for the cable news network, said during an hour-long hearing in front of King County Superior Court Judge Brian McDonald.

Fox is asking McDonald to quickly throw out the lawsuit, which was filed last month by the nonprofit Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics. The organization alleges that comments made on March 9 by Fox personalities Sean Hannity and Trish Regan deceived people about the pandemic, in violation of a state consumer protection law.

A video clip of Hannity's program from that date shows him saying he “didn't like how we're scaring people unnecessarily” about the virus. “I see it, again, as like, let's bludgeon Trump with this new hoax,” he said.

advertisement

advertisement

Fox argued in written papers that the statements reflected the news commentators' opinions -- which are protected by the Constitution.

The cable channel added that even if the commentators' statements could be viewed as “factual” -- as opposed to opinionated -- they would still be protected by the First Amendment.

“If journalists can be sued for allegedly understating the dangers of the Coronavirus, then they can also be sued for overstating the dangers (thereby damaging businesses that are forced to close), and nobody will be free to express an opinion on either side of the debate without risking costly litigation,” Fox News argued in its written papers.

At the hearing Thursday, McDonald questioned Carvin over Fox News' argument that the First Amendment protects allegedly false speech.

Carvin pointed to a 2012 Supreme Court decision striking down the Stolen Valor Act -- a federal law that made it a crime to lie about military awards. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a plurality opinion that the First Amendment prohibits content-based restrictions on speech, unless it falls into certain historic categories like perjury or defamation.

McDonald wondered aloud at the hearing why slandering someone should be entitled to less First Amendment protection than allegedly spreading misinformation “in a pandemic situation, where lives are at risk.”

At the same time, McDonald had some tough questions for the nonprofit's lawyer, Catherine Clark.

The judge told Clark that the Supreme Court's decision to invalidate the Stolen Valor act shows that at least some untrue speech is protected by the First Amendment. 

She countered that the Stolen Valor Act didn't involve statements relating to a public health threat. 

Clark had argued in written papers that cable channels like Fox News aren't entitled to the same degree of First Amendment protection as newspapers or broadcast television.

At the hearing, she added that consumers pay for Fox News when they purchase cable subscriptions, and that the paid nature of the channel subjects its content to the state's consumer protection law. 

McDonald appeared skeptical of that argument, noting that people also purchase newspapers.

The judge said he expects to issue a written decision by May 29.

6 comments about "Fake News Case 'Cannot Proceed In An American Court,' Fox Tells Judge".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ken Kurtz from creative license, May 22, 2020 at 1:53 p.m.

    Sounds like the judge's healthy skepticism around what the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics lawyer is purporting might be a paradoxical win. God forbid the judge saw it her way, it might be THE END for CNN, and MSNBC. Both of whom repeatedly report that Trump suggested people around the globe should inject disinfectant.

    The transcript, and videotape of the actual exchange between Trump, and Homeland Security Undersecretary For Science and Technology Bill Bryan in that press conference on April 23 makes it clear that Trump was merely reiterating some of what Bryan had presented earlier in the press conference in a PowerPoint about the efficacy of sunlight, and disinfectant for killing COVID-19, and mentioned that Bryan had referred to tests being undertaken to harness those things for efficacy within the body. 

    That testing, in actuality, has been ghoing on for years. Trump merely opined that the potential of harnessing those things is "interesting." THAT'S IT. And why wouldn't we be testing such things, as DEVOID OF REAL KNOWLEDGE about COVID-19 as we remain?

    It's there for the world to see, but left leaning media still lied about it, and continues to lie about it.

    Be careful what you press for, Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics. It'll bite you in the ass.

    What an oxymoron. Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics. Just saying it makes me throw up in my mouth a bit. We are, after all, talking about Washington here.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 23, 2020 at 10:30 a.m.

    Sounds like Fux News admits they are producing fake news and telling people they are nothing but fiction.

  3. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, May 23, 2020 at 10:44 a.m.

    Sounds like FAKE Paula LYING again.

  4. Ken Kurtz from creative license, May 23, 2020 at 10:56 a.m.

    I've never watched Fox, and stopped watching CNN and MSNBC years ago because they they are three peas in a pod. Entirely biased, and incapable of appealing to independent thinkers because of the BS they regularly force-feed their choirs. 

    People that have made up their minds, like Paula, and only look to drink Kool-Aid that will be copasetic with their already made up minds, Kool-Aid that will fortify what they already believe, and release serotonin in their brains (most sheeple in this country) will continue to plug into that BS, rendering tham capable of only making ridiculous comments like the one Paula just made.

    We're talking about a baseless lawsuit here which, if ratified in even the slightest way, shape, or form would change cable news, hell, ALL MEDIA forever, regardless of bias. Serious stuff, but all Paula has in her quiver is a potshot at the dopes on the other side of her dopey aisle.

  5. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, May 25, 2020 at 1:26 p.m.

    Ken Kurtz: For you ...
    https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/coronavirus/fact-check-white-house-spins-trump-disinfectant-remarks/2284542/

  6. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, May 25, 2020 at 3:34 p.m.

    Ken Fadner writes...

    Ken Kurtz: For you ...
    https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/coronavirus/fact-check-white-house-spins-trump-disinfectant-remarks/2284542/

    Why for me, Ken Fadner?

    Both "light" and "disinfectant" have been under investigation for their potential to kill viruses internally. The "light" has been "under testing" since 2016. Yes, inside the body, to kill viruses other than COVID-19. Nothing's come of it yet, but then it's taken way longer than four years for many valid cures, and treatments to be arrived at, and we are just at the genesis of coronavirus.

    State your case. Are you saying it's ridiculous for a president to consider whether there might be something there in the future, as we all scratch our heads (even our top scientists) over coronavirus in the here and now?

    Why are you trying to stick my nose into a smelly link to a VERY left leaning NBC doing more "gotcha" puff pieces on this thing when the transcript of what Trump actually said, and ruminated about IS SO CLEAR? Why? State your case.

Next story loading loading..