Judge tosses COVID-19 coverage lawsuit against Fox News
A Seattle judge threw out a lawsuit by a little-known watchdog group targeting Fox News for its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed by the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) on April 2 in King County Superior Court, argued that the network had disseminated false information about COVID-19, a charge the network vehemently pushed back on.
Superior Court Judge Brian McDonald called the lawsuit “laudable” but ultimately moved to toss it out, stating that “if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
“This Court concludes that WASHLITE’s [Consumer Protection Act] claim against Fox is barred under the First Amendment. Fox’s motion to dismiss is granted.”
Fox News said the group that filed the lawsuit had falsely portrayed its commentary.
“Using a false portrayal of FOX News Channel’s commentary, WASHLITE attempted to silence a national news organization to settle a partisan grievance,” it said in a statement.
“This was not only wrong, but contemptuous of the foundation of free speech and we are both pleased the court dismissed this frivolous case and grateful to the First Amendment community that rallied to our side,” the network continued.
WASHLITE said it will appeal the decision in state appellate court.
“We have a lot of respect for the judge,” board member and spokesman Arthur West said Wednesday. “It’s a well-reasoned opinion. It was thorough. We respectfully disagree.”
The Internet & Television Association, which represents major U.S. networks, along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, filed an amicus brief last week in support of Fox News’s request to dismiss a lawsuit.
“The Plaintiff in this case has asserted that news providers do not enjoy First Amendment protection when they distribute their programming over a cable television system,” the brief said. “That radical proposition is plainly wrong.”