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.