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Fox News Seeks Dismissal of COVID-19-Related Speech Complaint

Fox News Media has asked a Washington State court to dismiss a complaint filed by a group critical of Fox News commentary on the coronavirus, saying the complaint distorted its speech and misread the First Amendment. 

In a reply in support of Fox News’s motion to dismiss the first amended complaint, Fox Corp. said speech about the virus did not constitute deceptive commercial speech under the Consumer Protection Act because the act does not apply to news reporting or political commentary.

"They cannot hide that their assault on the First Amendment rests on a false portrayal of what Fox’s commentary actually said," Fox Corp. told the King County state superior courtin a filing Monday (May 18). "Fortunately, in all events, the Constitution protects Fox’s speech even accepting the Complaint’s distortions." 

The complaint against the Fox News coverage was filed by the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WashLITE) against Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. 

Fox said the plaintiffs claim that cable programmers don't have First Amendment rights is astoundingly wrong. "Plaintiffs’ position would allow the government to censor not just Fox News but also CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg, ESPN, and every other cable network," it told the court. "That is as dangerous as it is frivolous." 

It said that the WashLITE complaint rested on a distortion of its actual speech. "The transcripts, and the true facts, show that Fox highlighted the dangers of the Coronavirus even as Fox commentators criticized its exploitation for political purposes."

But it also told the court that "even if the complaint did not rest on a distortion of what its commentators said, the speech would be protected."