Fox News recently shut down a lawsuit filed by a liberal advocacy group over its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, in the aftermath of a Washington state judge’s decision to dismiss that group’s attempts to silence the network, Fox News is requesting that the plaintiff pay its legal fees and costs in the case, the Washington Examiner reports.
Fox News seeks $334.94
In a filing that requested no additional sanctions be imposed in the case, Fox took a somewhat magnanimous tone in asking for only the fees and costs paid in defending the matter, the Examiner noted.
Fox News lawyers said in their submission to the court: “In the true spirit of the First Amendment, Fox will combat plaintiffs’ false accusations with its own true speech, and will continue to advance its mission of accurate reporting and clear opinions on the Coronavirus pandemic and other issues of public importance. Accordingly, Fox seeks only the following statutory attorney fees and costs.”
The network’s attorneys added that Fox News does not feel the lawsuit was malicious, but simply the product of “partisan anti-Fox fervor” stoked by the media, and as such, the network asked that the plaintiff in the case — Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) — pay a mere $334.94 in total.
The conduct of Fox News in this case is commendable and should serve as a model to other news organizations. Instead of pursuing punitive measures in what was arguably a vexatious lawsuit meant to trample on the First Amendment, the network is taking the high road and seeking a nominal amount in fees and costs.
According to a previous report in the Washington Examiner, WASHLITE pledged to appeal King County Superior Court Judge Brian McDonald’s decision, but no such action has been taken thus far.
Yakima attorney Liz Hallock, who represented WASHLITE, said of her client’s position: “We are not trying to chill free speech here. But we believe the public was endangered by false and deceptive communications in the stream of commerce. There are a lot of people who listen to Fox News, and they’re not taking the recommendations of public-health officials seriously.”
A specific instance cited by WASHLITE in its original complaint occurred during a broadcast of Sean Hannity’s primetime show, in which he claimed with regard to the coronavirus panic, “They’re scaring the living hell out of people and I see it as, like, ‘Oh, let’s bludgeon Trump again with this new hoax.”
On first glance, Hannity’s statement may have seemed irresponsible or even dangerous, but the host himself later explained to Newsweek that when he said “hoax,” he was referring to the efforts of Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff to use the federal response to COVID-19 as a “bludgeon on Trump.”
In dismissing the claims against Fox News late last month, Judge McDonald found that “WASHLITE’s professed goal in this lawsuit — to ensure that the public receives accurate information about the coronavirus and COVID-19 — is laudable. However, the means employed here, a [Consumer Protection Act] claim against a cable news channel, runs afoul of the protections of the First Amendment,” he noted, according to the Examiner.
Now that it has defeated yet another threat to its very existence, Fox News will continue bringing perspectives on the news to Americans each day that other mainstream outlets won’t.