Fox News Lawyers Tell Court: Our Audience Doesn’t Assume We Tell the Truth

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.

Fox News, Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump

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 OANN. 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 didn’t 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.

REALLY? Trump Shill Kellyanne Conway Wants More Fact-Checking By the Media

On Wednesday morning Donald Trump’s Director of Alternative Facts, Kellyanne Conway, strolled out onto the White House lawn to chat with “the enemies of the people” (aka the free press). She quickly launched into a preemptive attack on the book that’s about to be released by former Trump National Security Advisor, John Bolton.

Kellyanne Conway, Fox News

Without having read a single word, Conway insinuated that there are factual errors that she wants the media to research and correct. She couldn’t cite any examples of such errors, but she was adamant that they must be there because, in the view of the Trump cultists, anything critical of Trump has to be a deliberate lie by partisan haters. Never mind Bolton’s decades-long record as a committed ultra-conservative who Trump trusted enough to place in an influential White House post. Conway still lashed out with baseless inferences of errors that remained mysteriously vague:

“I think if you’re wrong about small things, you’re wrong about big things. And I do worry that there’s very little fact-checking.”

Coming from the person who coined the term “alternative facts,” this is a remarkable complaint. Conway is as pathological about lying as her boss. And her boss has been documented as having told more than 18,000 lies – big and small – since his inauguration. What’s more, Conway and Trump are usually complaining about too much fact-checking. They are notoriously averse to truth seekers, whom they malign as biased and controlled by his Democratic foes. And they dismiss non-partisan sources like PolitiFact where Trump’s record is dominated by a whopping 69% total finding of either “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants on Fire”.

Trump is so scared of the truth with regard to the Bolton book, that he has ordered his Attorney General, Bill Barr, to file a lawsuit aimed at blocking its publication. This is likely to be laughed out of court as an unconstitutional attempt to impede the First Amendments rights of the author.

The argument being made by the Trump administration is that some portion of the book contains material that is classified. But that’s a charge that has already been refuted by the National Security Council official responsible for classification and publication clearances, Ellen Knight. She worked with Bolton for months and “was of the judgment that the manuscript draft did not contain classified information.” However, she was later overruled by Trump loyalists with partisan axes to grind. According To Trump, though (video below)

“I will consider every conversation with me as president highly classified. So that would mean if he wrote a book, and the book gets out, that would mean he’s broken the law. And I would think that he’d have criminal problems. I hope so.”

That, of course, is utter madness, with a pinch of toxic vengeance for spice. There is no precedent for asserting that every conversation with any president is automatically classified. Trump is making this up as he goes along. Additionally, he suggested that “maybe [Bolton] is not telling the truth. He’s been known not to tell the truth – A lot!” Which might explain why Trump hired him in the first place. But more to the point, if Bolton is lying, then there can’t be any allegation of disclosing classified material at all. How could it be classified if it isn’t true? Which brings us full circle back to the issue of truthfulness and how distant this president and his team are from it. They actually seem to revel in it.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.