Any fair-minded person who has watched Fox News for more than fifteen minutes knows that the network will twist, distort, mangle, and deliberately lie in the pursuit of their mission to disseminate right-wing propaganda. It is why they were created by conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch and Republican campaign hack Roger Ailes.
The evidence of Fox’s purposefully dishonest “reporting” has been documented for years by a multitude of journalists and fact-checkers. But for the purpose of this article it isn’t necessary to provide any links to that documentation. That’s because Fox news has admitted it themselves. And this time it isn’t some Fox idiot making an inadvertently true gaffe. This time it was in a court of law.
Tucker Carlson, one of Fox’s most prolific liars, is being sued for defamation. Karen McDougal is a former Playboy model who was paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer on behalf of Donald Trump in order to buy her silence about their sexual affair. Subsequently, Carlson did frequent stories aiming to discredit McDougal and defend Trump. In the course of those stories Carlson accused McDougal of extorting Trump and made representations that he asserted were “undisputed facts.” The only problem is that they were easily disputed and not remotely factual.
So McDougal filed suit against Carlson and Fox News. And their in defense, Fox’s lawyers have taken a unique position. They are literally arguing that Carlson’s audience doesn’t expect him to tell the truth. According to The Hollywood Reporter…
“Fox News’ attorney Erin Murphy argued that Carlson repeatedly couched his statements as hypotheticals to promote conversation and that a reasonable viewer would know his show offers ‘provocative things that will help me think harder’ not straight news.
“‘What we’re talking about here, it’s not the front page of the New York Times,’ said Murphy. ‘It’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, which is a commentary show.'”
Let’s set aside the ludicrous contention that Carlson has any reasonable viewers. Likewise the suggestion that any Fox News viewer has the capacity to think hard. What we are talking about are devotees of a media cult who blindly believe whatever they are told by Fox News and their current cult master, Donald Trump. They not only assume that what Fox says is true, they regard it as the gospel from a divine source.
In reality, Carlson did not couch his statements as hypotheticals. He explicitly described them as facts. What’s more, Fox News also floats a defense that asserts Carlson’s remarks were not made in malice, a standard that may be relevant in a defamation case. But how can an accusation of having committed a criminal act (extortion) against someone who Carlson is personally associated with (Trump) not be perceived as malicious?
It’s also interesting that Fox News is introducing the New York Times as a standard for truth telling. By making a distinction between Carlson’s fictionalizations and what should be considered honest journalism, Fox’s lawyers chose the New York Times as the model of a professional media enterprise. What will Trump have to tweet about that?
The bottom line is that now any time Tucker Carlson, or Sean Hannity, or Laura Ingraham or the “Curvy Couch” potatoes of Fox and Friends, attempt to pass off their lies and insults as “news,” it will be much easier to refute them with these admissions made by Fox’s legal team in a court of law. And the cherry on top of this sundae is that they will probably lose the defamation suit as well.
ADDENDUM: There has been some comparison of this defense to one used by MSNBC in defense of a defamation suit filed against Rachel Maddow by the Trump-fluffing conspiracy crackpots at OAN and elsewhere. However the only similarity is that both argued that their defendant offered opinions.
The difference is that Fox’s lawyers argued that Carlson’s audience did not expect his opinions to be factually based. But MSNBC’s lawyers argued that Maddow’s opinions were “precise factual recitations that indisputably and accurately state the facts” and that her commentary was “fully protected opinion because (a) it was based on disclosed facts.” Big difference.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.