Media

‘Frontal Assault On The Freedom Of Speech’: Fox News Files Motion To Dismiss ‘Frivolous’ Lawsuit Over Its Coronavirus Coverage

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Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
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Fox News filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss the lawsuit filed by a Washington nonprofit organization over the network’s coverage of the novel coronavirus.

The Washington League for Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) filed a consumer protection and emotional distress lawsuit against Fox News April 2. (RELATED: Nonprofit Suing Fox News Over Its Coronavirus Reporting Requests Judge Be Removed)

The lawsuit requests an injunction to prohibit Fox from “interfering with reasonable and necessary measures to contain the virus by publishing further false and deceptive content” and accuses the network of having “knowingly disseminated false, erroneous, and incomplete information.”

“It’s Constitutional Law 101: the First Amendment protects our right to speak openly and freely on matters of public concern,” Lily Fu Claffee, general counsel for Fox News, said in a press release Tuesday. “If WASHLITE doesn’t like what we said, it can criticize us, but it can’t silence us with a lawsuit.”

Fox News’s motion requests the court to dismiss WASHLITE’s claims, calling the lawsuit a “frontal assault on the freedom of speech.” Tuesday’s motion adds that WASHLITE’s lawsuit also “flagrantly violates the First Amendment and fails to state a claim.”

“Fox’s statements are core political speech on a matter of public concern—how dangerous the Coronavirus is, and how society should respond to it,” Fox News’s motion, reviewed by the Daily Caller, reads.

“Under the First Amendment and state law, the truth or falsity of this type of speech must be resolved through free and open debate in the marketplace of ideas—not through burdensome litigation seeking to impose legal penalties on political statements that a jury might deem ‘false’ or ‘outrageous.’”

Traffic on Sixth Avenue passes by advertisements featuring Fox News personalities, including Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity, adorn the front of the News Corporation building, March 13, 2019 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Traffic on Sixth Avenue passes by advertisements featuring Fox News personalities, including Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity, adorn the front of the News Corporation building, March 13, 2019 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Fox News’s argument is that “the First Amendment protects” the network’s speech. It also notes that WASHLITE “fails to state a claim under Washington law” and “fails to state a claim for the tort of outrage.”

The network explains that the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), cited by WASHLITE in its lawsuit, “does not apply to political commentary.”

“But the only deception here is in the Complaint [WASHLITE],” the network’s motion to dismiss reads. “Fox’s opinion hosts have never described the Coronavirus as a ‘hoax’ or a ‘conspiracy,’ but instead used those terms to comment on efforts to exploit the pandemic for political points.”

“Regardless, the claims here are frivolous because the statements at issue are core political speech on matters of public concern.”