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Fox News Calls Activist Group’s Coronavirus Coverage Lawsuit a ‘Dangerous’ Threat to Every Cable Network

Fox News Channel, Fox News, Litigation, Lawsuit, Court, Document

Fox News is asserting its First Amendment rights — or, more accurately, that it has First Amendment rights in the first place — in response to a lawsuit filed by a Washington State activist group concerning the network’s coverage of the novel coronavirus.

In a document filed Monday in state court, Fox said the group, known as WASHLITE, has argued the “astounding claim” that “cable programmers do not have First Amendment rights,” the latter quote being plucked directly from WASHLITE’S lawsuit against Fox.

“That is wrong,” Fox flatly responded, citing case law.

“Cable programmers and cable operators . . . are entitled to the protection of the speech and press provisions of the First Amendment,” the U.S. Supreme Court said in a 1994 case cited by Fox.  “[T]he basic principles of freedom of speech and the press . . . do not vary when a new and different medium for communication appears,” another cited Supreme Court case articulates.

Fox, in its response, took the wise legal position of arguing what’s right for it is also right for everyone else. The WASHLITE position would “allow the government to censor not just Fox News but also CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg, ESPN, and every other cable network,” Fox argued. “That is as dangerous as it is frivolous.”

WASHLITE’s lawsuit alleges that Fox News violated Washington’s consumer protection laws by broadcasting programming which the group claims downplayed the severity of COVID-19.  By doing so, the group argues, Fox failed to perform as a “news” source. Law&Crime’s additional coverage of the group’s claims and the trajectory of the litigation is here.

Oral arguments in Fox’s motion to dismiss the case are scheduled for Thursday, May 21.

You can read the full response below:

WASHLITE v. Fox News (Reply… by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Photo illustration by Law&Crime.]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network who now contributes to the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.