Freedom Of The Press? Fox News Sued Over Coronavirus Coverage

It begins. A liberal group has filed a lawsuit against Fox News and others in a blatant attempt to muzzle the conservative network.

Lily Fu Claffee, Fox News Media’s general counsel, hit back calling the lawsuit frivolous: “Wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law. We will defend vigorously and seek sanctions as appropriate.”

From The Times of San Diego: An obscure Washington state group has become the first in the nation to sue Fox News over its coronavirus coverage, asking a state court to keep the cable network from airing false information about the pandemic.

The 10-page complaint — filed Thursday in King County — also names as defendants Fox News Corp., owner Rupert Murdoch, AT&T TV and COMCAST.

It seeks an injunction to prohibit the conservative-leaning outlet from “interfering with reasonable and necessary measures to contain the virus by publishing further false and deceptive content.”

Reacting in a statement, Lily Fu Claffee, general counsel for FOX News Media, told Times of San Diego: “Wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law. We will defend vigorously and seek sanctions as appropriate.”

Arthur West, leader of the 3-year-old Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, or WASHLITE, the plaintiff, said in a phone interview that its members have run into people who still believe earlier Fox News reports that the pandemic was a hoax.

(One board member was diagnosed with coronavirus, he said, asking the name be withheld.)

The case, filed at 12:13 p.m. Thursday, has been assigned to Judge Ken Schubert — with no hearing date set. West said the defendants haven’t yet been formally served notice of the case.

Fox News interfered with social distancing measures, West said from the state first slammed by the virus.

“That’s the real evil of this type of programming,” West said. “We believe it delayed and interfered with a prompt and adequate response to this coronavirus pandemic within the state of Washington.”

West denied that the nonprofit group (with perhaps 30 associate members) was aiming to stifle First Amendment rights.

“It’s like the theater thing,” he said. “Up to the point where you get up in the theater and yell ‘Fire!’ you can say whatever you want. But when you get to the point where you are endangering the community — that transcends the limits of the First Amendment.”

He also contends that commercial speech is involved, not private speech by members of the public.

The WASHLITE suit includes a request for relief under the state’s Consumer Protection Act, alleging Fox News violated the act by “falsely and deceptively disseminating ‘News’ via cable news contracts that the coronavirus was a ‘hoax,’ and that it was otherwise not a danger to public health and safety.”

In March 9 broadcasts by Sean Hannity and Trish Regan, “defendants acted in bad faith to willfully and maliciously disseminate false information denying and minimizing the danger posed by the spread of the novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, which is now recognized as an international pandemic,” the suit says.

Last week, Fox Business Network said it officially “parted ways” with anchor Regan after what some called a rant against the “coronavirus impeachment scam.”

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