Last month, rumors that Fox News was bracing itself for a potential “legal bloodbath” after misleading its millions of viewers about the coronavirus pandemic began circulating. Now, it’s finally happening.
The network and its billionaire owner, Rupert Murdoch, have just been slapped with a lawsuit by a nonprofit in Washington State that is accusing the network of “willfully and maliciously” spreading false information about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 10-page complaint was filed last Thursday by a watchdog organization called the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE). In it, the network is accused of launching a “campaign of deception and omission regarding the danger of the international proliferation of the novel coronavirus.”
The lawsuit specifically names Fox News anchors Sean Hannity and Trish Regan, who it says “acted in bad faith to willfully and maliciously disseminate false information denying and minimizing the danger posed by the spread of the novel coronavirus.”
Three weeks ago, Fox announced it had “parted ways” with Regan after she called the coronavirus a politically motivated “scam” by Democrats on her March 9 show. That same day, Hannity called it a “hoax” on his show, but for whatever reason he remains on the air.
Many believe Regan’s firing was a preemptive move on the network’s part to try and stave off any potential lawsuits. Unfortunately for them, the plan didn’t work.
The lawsuit, which also lists as defendants cable networks AT&T TV and COMCAST, which both carry Fox News, continues: “As a result of this misinformation by this dominant subscription news network, a continuing falsehood has been fostered that the virus is a ‘hoax,’ a ‘conspiracy,’ and that it is no more dangerous than common influenza.”
WASHLITE is seeking injunction to prevent Fox News from “interfering with reasonable and necessary measures to contain the virus by publishing further false and deceptive content.” It is also asking for “nominal damages” and “reasonable attorneys’ fees.”
Fox News alum Megyn Kelly, who once worked as an attorney before becoming a mouthpiece for the alt-right, recently tweeted at NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen that a lawsuit against her old network would be “laughed out of court.”
Anyone filing such a lawsuit would be laughed out of court and likely sanctioned by the court for filing a frivolous lawsuit. But, whatever you need to tell yourself to stay occupied during quarantine… https://t.co/c87n1bZSVG
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) March 30, 2020
Fox News released a statement through its lawyer, Lily Fu Claffee, who calls the WASHLITE’s lawsuit “wrong on the facts” and “frivolous on the law.”