Fox News squares off in court against a Washington State activist group that argued the network lacked First Amendment protection its coverage of the COVID-19. We cover it on the Law&Crime Network.
“WASHLITE does not disagree that newspapers and broadcast television stations enjoy certain protections under the First Amendment,” the group argued. “However, Fox is not a newspaper and is not sued in this action for the programming on its broadcast television stations . . . [r]ather, Fox is a cable programmer providing content to be presented on a private cable system owned by entities such as AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum and others.”
To be sure, certain coverage and handling of COVID-19 on Fox programming is controversial. But does that mean it isn’t protected by the First Amendment right to free speech? The main thrust of the argument by WASHLITE, a Washington State-based activist group, is that Fox News and Fox Business lacked the First Amendment protections enjoyed by broadcast television stations or newspapers.
Fascinating hearing going on right now. https://t.co/NAXXBaOJMT
— Elura Nanos (@EluraNanos) May 21, 2020
For their part, Fox poopooed WASHLITE’s argument:
Plaintiffs launch a frontal assault on the First Amendment by seeking a gag order and a retraction by judicial fiat against Fox News for airing allegedly “deceptive” commentary about the Coronavirus outbreak. Anointing themselves as both the Committee on Public Safety and the Ministry of Truth, they seek to punish Fox for speech that they deem “false” and dangerous because it does not conform to the official viewpoint of the government and their own proclaimed omniscience and certitude. Plaintiffs request a prior restraint prohibiting Fox from airing future speech that contradicts the government’s proclamations. Worse, they request an order forcing Fox to recant past commentary and affirmatively endorse the government’s viewpoint. They also seek “treble damages” based on vague and unspecified harms that they claim to have suffered as a result of Fox’s commentary. By this lawsuit, Plaintiffs seek to restrain, control, and penalize what commentators and opinion hosts may say about the most pressing public controversy of our time. Fortunately, neither the First Amendment nor Washington state law allows such brazen interference with the freedom of the press. The case must be dismissed as a matter of law.
Aaron Keller contributed to this report.
[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
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