The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE), alleges that Fox News committed dishonest or deceptive acts by portraying the coronavirus as a hoax in programs broadcast in February and March. The broadcasts prevented viewers from adequately protecting themselves or mitigating the spread of the virus, and therefore contributed to the public health crisis and preventable mass deaths, the lawsuit said.
WASHLITE was formed in September 2017 by a man from Onalaska, Lewis County, according to the Secretary of State’s website, but the nonprofit does not appear to have any other web presence.
Yakima’s lawyer Liz Hallock, who is running for governor as a Green Party candidate, represents WASHLITE in the Fox News lawsuit.
“We are not trying to cool free speech here. But we believe the public has been put at risk by false and misleading trade communications, “said Hallock in a telephone interview on Friday. “There are a lot of people who listen to Fox News, and they don’t take the recommendations of public health officials seriously. It’s not about money; it’s about making sure the audience gets the message, it’s not a hoax. “
According to Hallock, several WASHLITE members live in King County and one of them has COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
The San Diego Times, which reported on the trial for the first time on Thursday, quoted a statement by Fox News Media general counsel Lily Fu Claffee in response to the trial: “False facts, frivolous about the law.” We will vigorously defend and demand the appropriate sanctions. “
Although the trial does not fully list the cases where Fox News staff characterized the virus as a hoax during the two-month period, it does mention March 9 broadcasts by Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Trish Regan as examples.
That day, Hannity said, “They scare the living hell out of people and I see it like,” Oh, let’s club Trump again with this new hoax. “”
“Late Night” host Seth Meyers criticized Hannity for comments on Wednesday, airing the March 9 clip with that of nine days later in which Hannity said his program had always taken the coronavirus seriously “And we have never called the virus a hoax.” “
Regan’s March 9 broadcast sparked his dismissal from Fox Business News. A video posted on The Daily Beast’s website shows Regan delivering a monologue next to a graphic that reads: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam”. Regan accused the left of creating mass hysteria over the virus and shutting down the economy, saying COVID-19 was not as important as other recent epidemics such as SARS and Ebola.
“So why the melodrama on such a hectic scale right now? Why are the markets doing this? I’ll give you two words: Donald Trump, “said Regan in the video.
Hallock said his clients are only asking for nominal damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Ideally, she would like a judge to find that Fox News has violated consumer protection law and order the media to stop spreading false information about the virus. She would also like to see Fox News post a clear retraction and an apology to viewers.
She said that the classic example to demonstrate the limits of freedom of expression is someone shouting “Fire! In a crowded theater when there’s no danger. In contrast, Hallock said of Fox News, “They’re screaming,” There is no fire! “When there is a fire. “