A VICTORY FOR FOX NEWS — AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT.
It’s no secret that some groups on the left have long sought to silence Fox News. Media Matters for America raises $10,000,000 a year, mostly to bash Fox. The Obama administration once declared war on the network. Rival networks routinely attack. (Just so you know, I should note up front that I am a Fox News contributor.)
In recent weeks, Fox has faced another assault — and won. It happened in Washington State. A group called WASHLITE — the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics — filed suit against Fox. The group alleged that Fox “willfully and maliciously engaged in a campaign of deception and omission regarding the danger of the international proliferation of the novel Coronavirus.” Fox’s reports, the suit alleged, were “deceptive because they caused consumers to fail to take appropriate action to protect themselves and others from the disease, mitigate its spread, and contributed to a public health crisis and a subsequent statewide shutdown causing damage to businesses and the loss of employment by persons located in Washington State.” The complaint added that “one member of WASHLITE has contracted the virus,” for which the group apparently blamed Fox. Therefore, WASHLITE somehow concluded that the network had violated the Washington State Consumer Protection Act.
It was all ridiculous, of course. For one thing, the suit grossly misrepresented Fox’s reporting. For another, WASHLITE’s claims were impossible to prove. And then the group came up with a crazy — and dangerous — theory that Fox, as a cable network, was somehow not entitled to the same First Amendment protections as a newspaper or a broadcast news network.
“These assertions do not hold up to scrutiny,” wrote Judge Brian McDonald. Even if WASHLITE’s characterization of Fox’s report was true — and it was not — Fox still enjoyed the free speech protections of other American media. “As the Supreme Court recognized, ‘If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,'” McDonald wrote.
Substitute “leftist activists” for “society,” and that was the WASHLITE lawsuit. In the end, McDonald ruled that the scheme “runs afoul of the protections of the First Amendment.” The suit is another example of why the press — everyone in the press — has an interest in protecting the rights that protected Fox.