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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Filed Under: 1st amendment, brian flood, brooke singman, charles harder, defamation, donald trump, free speech, gregg re, slapp, state media
Companies: fox news, news corp.


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 12:07pm

    Answering your question

    Why Is Fox News Acting As State Media[?]

    Because the current president is a Republican.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sehlat (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 12:13pm

    Answer in two words:

    "teacher's pet"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 12:20pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 12:24pm

      Re: Ah good old fractal wrongness...

      Then there is the concept that if false statements are not protected speech then everything a politician says is not protected? They should be careful or they might find themselves accountable for campaign promises.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 12:21pm

    Prognosticating stenographer?

    Maybe a better way to relate the relationship between the current administration and Fox News is 'mouthpiece to the admin' (with apologies to lawyers who used to be known as mouthpieces, they don't deserve the denigration).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2020 @ 8:52am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 9:07am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 10:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: Prognosticating stenographer?

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

          Well, he is a Fox viewer. That channel doesn't seem to make the distinction.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2020 @ 9:58am

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 3:39am

        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".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 12:32pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 1:13pm

    "Why Is Fox News Acting As State Media"

    Because they are a state actor?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Screw Murdoch, 9 Mar 2020 @ 1:29pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 1:36pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 2:17pm

    Illegal cyber activity?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 2:49pm

    We're gonna open up these libel laws by trying them on Faux News & convince people we did it & won.

    If only he cared about human life as much as he did about his 'reputation'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 2:53pm

    "The complaint said that CNN was well aware the statements were false “because there was an extensive record of statements from the Campaign and the administration expressly disavowing any intention to seek Russian assistance” but promoted the claim anyway."

    Wow, that statement right there...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Agammamon, 9 Mar 2020 @ 4:33pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 5:33pm

      Re:

      One particular perspective is that donald mimics what faux news says.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 6:03pm

      Re:

      If Fox News does not wish to be referred to as a brown-noser for Trump, they could at least have the decency to wipe the fecal matter off their nose first - instead of wearing it proudly as they have for a while now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 3:42am

        Re: Re:

        Well, the weird part is that Trump tends to get all his info from Fox. The brown-nosing goes both ways - which gives new life to the expression of "bending over backwards".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 6:11pm

      Re:

      Next time could you start with the TDS line, would save me and others time knowing that the rest of it doesn't need to be taken seriously to have that front and center.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 9:33pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 2:03am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 4:41am

        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!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 4:40am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 9 Mar 2020 @ 6:32pm

    Fox news is a very self aware wolf. I can't wait to see them when the Republican party goes down in flames due to the mental cancer and gymnastics their party leaders spew.

    Course while I'm waiting I could also wish for that unicorn from last week.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 9 Mar 2020 @ 7:28pm

    Shouldn't that be "republican state media"? Because we all know how dedicated they're going to be to the next democrat who gets elected...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jjmcubed (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 9:54pm

    Could this open up some distasteful discovery against the plaintiff if it goes that far?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2020 @ 6:47am

    seems right

    reality isnt really important to Fox News, the Trunp Administration or their "fans".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 9:53am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2020 @ 11:37am

    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)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 1:52pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 2:44pm

      Re: Stupid Harder

      Charles = stupid, you say?

      Keep calm and Carreon.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2020 @ 12:31pm

    The point is to have "reported" the lawsuits. It doesn't matter if they are withdrawn later. The headlines are the important part. It is true of Fox & Republicans in general. Truth doesn't matter, impact does.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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