Amid the mushrooming coronavirus crisis, Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are girding for a pandemic of public-interest lawsuits over misinformation and conspiracy theories dispensed by certain Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network personalities such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Trish Regan.
According to a top Murdoch executive, the father-and-son media moguls are ready to go to war with potential plaintiffs such as the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics—aka WASHLITE—an activist non-profit that filed suit on Thursday against Rupert Murdoch, Fox News and other defendants.
The 10-page complaint, first reported by The Times of San Diego and filed in the superior court of Washington state’s King County, seeks a judgment that the Murdoch-controlled outlets violated the state’s consumer protection laws by “falsely and deceptively disseminating ‘News’ via cable news contracts that the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 was a ‘Hoax,’ and that the virus was otherwise not a danger to public health and safety.”
The lawsuit, which seeks “nominal damages” and “reasonable attorneys’ fees,” demands an injunction to prevent Fox outlets from “otherwise interfering with or undermining the legitimate control measures imposed within the State of Washington for the limited time period under which the pandemic is brought under control and until the pandemic is brought under control.”
The lawsuit doesn’t list specific examples of the alleged “campaign of deception spread by the Defendants”—who also include the AT&T and Comcast cable services—but WASHLITE plans to do so in a future court filing.
The conservative outlet fired back—in a statement provided to The Daily Beast, and attributed to Lily Fu Claffee, Fox News Media’s general counsel—that WASHLITE’s lawsuit is “Wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law.”
Claffee added: “We will defend vigorously and seek sanctions as appropriate.”
WASHLITE board member Arthur West, a non-lawyer and former automobile mechanic who earns what he describes as a handsome living as a professional public-interest plaintiff, told The Daily Beast that he’s not impressed by Claffee’s vow to seek retribution: “We are not afraid of the big bad Fox.”
This will be nothing more than a nuisance for FOX News, but if they aren't careful, this is going to snowball into an avalanche of bad press. I would expect Trump to have Bill Barr step in if things get too hairy for FOX, but we'll see. Trump needs FOX as much as FOX needs Trump.