When Fox News Says It Isn’t News 

Fox News is getting sued by Karen McDougal for defamation of character by slander.  Fox News attorneys are essentially saying people who watched the Tucker Carlson Tonight show, knew it was not news and knew it was not necessarily a true story.

On his prime time show Tucker Carlson said two women approached Donald Trump, threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he didn’t pay them to keep their stories of their affairs with him private.  Carlson accused the women of extortion which is a federal crime.  Carlson he flashed the women’s pictures and presented the story as fact.  

The Case

McDougal’s attorneys are accusing Carlson (via Fox News) of defamation of character by slander in a New York court.  Slander requires the publication of a false statement.  New York case law hinges upon whether it is reasonable that the viewer would think Carlson was actually accusing McDougal of a crime.

The Defense

Fox News attorneys have built their defense by basing their case on the Fox News audience.  In their statements to the court last week.  The attorneys said Tucker Carlson’s audience does not watch the show expecting to hear the news of the day.  That a reasonable viewer would have know Carlson was not actually accusing McDougal of committing a crime because the story was provably false.

They also argued that viewers “Tucker Carlson Tonight” is a hyperbolic opinion show designed to promote spirited debate, not sober factual reporting.  Adding that the show is not the front page of the New York Times nor does it require fact checking for a Tucker Carlson story.  Tucker Carlson Tonight holds the record for the highest rated program on cable news.

Other Legal Challenges

Fox news was recently successful in getting a case thrown out of Washington State Court.  The case was brought by Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, or WASH LITE.  That group challenged Fox broke consumer protection laws by down-playing the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Fox was able to get the case dismissed based on a First Amendment defense.

Racheal Maddow also recently successfully had a slander case dismissed by using the hyperbol and First Amendment defense.

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