Why Is Fox News Acting As State Media, Announcing Trump's Lawsuits Before They're Filed And Failing To Point Out How Frivolous They Are?

from the that's-a-rhetorical-question dept

As we’ve been pointing out, the Trump campaign, with the help of lawyer Charles Harder, has been suing a list of media enemies over the past week. There was the NY Times, followed by the Washington Post and (probably not) finally, CNN. We’ve detailed why each lawsuit is frivolous, and how they appear to be playing to Trump’s base in a performative manner, attacking the credibility of the media which has done critical reporting on his Presidency, and doing so in a manner that potentially serves two purposes: gets his fans riled up about the media while simultaneously creating a chilling effect on fairly typical journalistic analysis of the Trump administration and campaign.

But I wanted to focus in on a separate point: the effective “state media” of Fox News reporting on these lawsuits in absolutely ridiculous ways. Reporter Gregg Re wrote about the NY Times case, and at least included a link to the filing and noted that “lawsuits for libel against media organizations by public figures must clear a high bar.” But the reporting on the next two lawsuits, done by reporters Brian Flood and Brooke Singman, were terrible. Both of them claimed that reporting on the filing of a federal lawsuit was a Fox News “exclusive.” That’s not what exclusive means, guys.

Also, while Fox News eventually added a link to the filing in the story about the CNN lawsuit and the NY Times one, it initially did not link to the CNN one, and as of this writing has still not linked to the Washington Post filing. Indeed, as you can see above, the reporters almost gloat over the fact that Fox News “obtained” access to the lawsuit — and then failed to provide it to their readers. And with the CNN lawsuit, a search of PACER a couple of hours after the Fox News article went live showed no evidence that the case had actually been filed yet. In other words, it’s likely that someone associated with the campaign or the lawsuit handed the complaint over to Fox News to “break” the “exclusive” story.

And perhaps that explains why the reporting by Flood and Singman is so, so bad. Unlike the story by Re regarding the NY Times lawsuit, this one makes no effort to explain why this lawsuit faces a huge barrier (known as the 1st Amendment). Even worse, it repeats a blatantly false statement from the campaign’s “legal adviser” Jenna Ellis:

?False statements are not protected under the U.S. Constitution; therefore, these suits will have no chilling effect on freedom of the press. If journalists are more accurate in their statements and reporting, that would be a positive development, but not why these suits were filed,” Ellis added.

There is some irony in this statement about false statements being false, but it is. There’s plenty of precedent here, including (most clearly) the United States v. Alvarez (a case we’ve been pointing to a lot lately), which says:

The Court has never endorsed the categorical rule the Government advances: that false statements receive no First Amendment protection.

A good reporter would perhaps point that out in response to Ellis. But it appears that Fox News is less interested in employing good reporters, and more interested in acting as state media, and boosting the President it supports.

This is especially sickening, given that these are attacks on the very 1st Amendment that protects Fox News — and its long history of misleading, inaccurate, and occasionally false statements, that the network is somewhat infamous for. You would think, if it wasn’t subsumed in cultish adherence to the President, that it would recognize the importance of actually continuing to defend the part of the Constitution that allows them to exist. At the very least, you might hope that its reporters would be careful enough to accurately report the law. Apparently that is too much to ask.

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Comments on “Why Is Fox News Acting As State Media, Announcing Trump's Lawsuits Before They're Filed And Failing To Point Out How Frivolous They Are?”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Ah good old fractal wrongness...

“False statements are not protected under the U.S. Constitution; therefore, these suits will have no chilling effect on freedom of the press.

In addition to the irony of that being a false statement and yet still protected, not sure they’ve thought that one through, because if they really want to get on board with trampling the first amendment and trying to spin a ‘it doesn’t count if the statement is false’ then they are just begging to be sued the next time someone doesn’t care for their ‘reporting’ or they get sloppy/dishonest and post something that isn’t true, like they just did.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prognosticating stenographer?

Like the Mainstream news is the mouthpiece for the Democrat party!!!!

The flat out lies coming from these so-called journalists is a joke. One like after another and no facts to actually back up what they are saying. They’re really commentators. So they are throwing out their own personal Opinions. Which is fine, but that’s not fact, that’s your opinion based on no facts. Trying to report them so to people as they are is a LIE. You are not a Reporter/Journolist, but a Commentator.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Prognosticating stenographer?

Like the Mainstream news is the mouthpiece for the Democrat party!!!!

Not to the same extent as Fox News is of the GOP. There is empirical evidence on this point. Read "Network Propaganda."

The flat out lies coming from these so-called journalists is a joke.

Can you point to any "flat out lies"? I believe that many journalists may have biases, but "flat out lies" is not an accurate description.

They’re really commentators. So they are throwing out their own personal Opinions.

Some in media are opinion commentators, some are more standard journalists. You seem to be conflating the two.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Prognosticating stenographer?

"the Mainstream news is the mouthpiece for the Democrat party"

Are you telling me that Conservative News Network is a mouthpiece of the democratic party? Are you daft?

Most all major corporations side with the republicans, they did before donnny. Mainstream media is owned and operated by large corporations.

And you want me to believe what now?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Prognosticating stenographer?

"The flat out lies coming from these so-called journalists is a joke."

Ah, yes…Trump makes a statement on record or tweets it out, CNN comments on it and the trump supporters go wild screaming that "Trump said No Such Thing". At some point your denial of reality becomes tedious.

Tell me, if you will, how does Trump’s statement on the "Very Fine People" waving swastikas and screaming ethnic slurs in the streets of charlottesville NOT invite the implication that Trump has a racist bias?

Or his pre-president statement that he’d never trust a black man with money?

Or his comments on what part of a woman’s anatomy it’s fine to grab?

At least have the moral courage to own that you people are pretty darn tootin’ fine with the "wimmin and nig…s being shown their proper place".

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aerinai (profile) says:

Fox News has proven it isn't news

It isn’t news. It is entertainment. This is just them pandering to their base like Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. They don’t care about ‘journalism’, they care about keeping ratings and their loyal sycophantic fan base tuning in to sell more ads.

Screw Murdoch says:

Boycott Murdoch

I realize this is a tiny gesture being an anonymous post on a blog that isn’t globally read at any appreciable scale but here it is anyway: Boycott Murdoch and all of their holdings. Go through the lists of assets held by the Murdoch family, look for products and services you use then replace those with non-Murdoch assets. Hit these asshats where it hurts most: their bank account.

21th Century Fox assets

NewsCorp assets

…and more

Anonymous Coward says:

Jenna Ellis tends to speak with a substantial degree of precision, and in all reports I have seen where she provided public comments on these suits she has made it clear that what is not protected are false, defamatory statements. It would useful to have a link to the actual document or interview from which the quote is taken to determine if the quote has a previous factual predicate. It likely does.

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Agammamon says:

Why would annoucing Trump’s private lawsuits mean that Fox news was acting as ‘state media’?

What is ‘state media’ in the United States?

Is Twitter ‘state media’ because Trump tweets there?

Could it be that Fox News is, you know, reporting some news? They do that every once in a while.

And why is it their job to point out how frivolous they are? They’re not legal analysts and you never had a problem with the media not pointing out the bullshit from the other side of the aisle. Its also not the job of the media to point these things out. Especially when ‘frivolous’ is being defined by some dude.

Stop with the TDS bullshit. Get some perspective.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They’re not legal analysts and you never had a problem with the media not pointing out the bullshit from the other side of the aisle.

Uh, have you ever read Techdirt before? We highlight problems with all kinds of media and all kinds of politicians, and generally ignore "which side of the aisle" people are on. Like, literally on Friday I complained about bad NY Times analysis of a bill introduced by a Republican.

If anyone here has derangement syndrome, it’s you who might want to look in the mirror.

Its also not the job of the media to point these things out.

Yes, yes it is, actually. That’s literally the job of a newspaper.

Especially when ‘frivolous’ is being defined by some dude.

No, frivolous based on literally decades of court precedent.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Why would annoucing Trump’s private lawsuits mean that Fox news was acting as ‘state media’?

Much like Fox News currently is, state media would be both stenographers and flatterers for Dear Leader. That Fox News announced the lawsuits and assumedly jumped on board with them says all you need to know.

(Side note: “Trump’s lawsuits”? So much for plausible deniability.)

What is ‘state media’ in the United States?

Any media that closely works with government officials and flatters them to no end so it can retain that working relationship. Fox News works closely with both the Republican party and Donald Trump (Sean Hannity is basically a Trump aide), and on-air personalities never say anything bad about those entities unless reality leaves no other choice.

Is Twitter ‘state media’ because Trump tweets there?

Nope. Mind you, Twitter is still a complete shitpit, but it’s not state media because it stil allows speech that opposes the interests of Dear Leader and his flunkies.

Could it be that Fox News is, you know, reporting some news? They do that every once in a while.

This is accurate…but not for the reasons you think it is.

And why is it their job to point out how frivolous they are?

They’re not obligated to say “the suit is frivolous”, sure. But a good news outlet would, I’unno, point out how the law goes against the Trump campaign.

you never had a problem with the media not pointing out the bullshit from the other side of the aisle

Too many negatives in one sentence. Let’s rewrite that so I can parse it a little better:

you always let slide the media ignoring the bullshit from the other side of the aisle

…and that’s not true, either. Techdirt routinely criticizes “liberal” media outlets for making boneheaded mistakes. The NY Times’s flawed interpretation(s) of 47 U.S.C. § 230 alone have received numerous critical articles on Techdirt.

Its also not the job of the media to point these things out.

Not the job of state media, anyway…

Stop with the TDS bullshit.

I bet you’re the kind of person who had a (melo)dramatic breakdown when you saw a picture of Barack Obama with his feet on the desk in the Oval Office.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"I bet you’re the kind of person who had a (melo)dramatic breakdown when you saw a picture of Barack Obama with his feet on the desk in the Oval Office."

He also wore a tan suit once and ordered types of lettuce and mustard that aren’t found at the average NASCAR meeting. Clearly the psawn of Satan!

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Could it be that Fox News is, you know, reporting some news? They do that every once in a while."

Your defence of Fox is that they occasionally stumble into a position where they report actual news?

So close to self awareness, yet so far….

"They’re not legal analysts"

Damn right.

"and you never had a problem with the media not pointing out the bullshit from the other side of the aisle"

Citation needed.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Nonsense, I’m sure they will be just as supportive of a democrat president and would never sink to petty things like, oh I dunno, act like the color of the suit the president wears is a huge deal, especially after the silk glove treatment they’ve given Trump.

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Toom1275 (profile) says:

Why Is Fox News Acting As State Media

Because that’s literally the one reason it was created – to act as the GOP’s propaganda arm so that the next time a Republican president commits blatant crimes in office, there wouldn’t be as much support among the citizens for impeachment as there was for Watergate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Stupid Harder

Am I the only one that’s starting to see the name Charles and equate it to Stupid?

So… I’m gonna start telling people to "Charles Harder" when they’re being dumb and can’t possibly ‘Stupid Harder’ than they are…

I hope it catches on like ‘Nerd Harder’ … (which no one will confuse with Charles)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Sometimes it's stupidity, other times it's not

You’d be making a mistake to think that he’s being stupid here, as I’ve little doubt that he knows exactly what he’s doing, and even if the lawsuits he’s involved in don’t win in a conventional sense, well, depending on the goal of the lawsuit ‘winning’ can be seen as nothing more than a perk, something that would be nice to have but isn’t necessary.

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