Washington State non-profit group sues Fox News for deceptive trade practices

UPDATE: New Study conducted by University of Chicago, supports that Fox News’s  political commentator,  Sean Hannity, likely spread false information on the Coronavirus pandemic


 

 

A lawsuit has been filed against Fox News, by the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE), alleging Fox News engaged in unfair or deceptive acts by representing the Corona-Virus as a hoax  in broadcasts airing between February and March 2020.

Between February to March 2020, Fox News  told viewers that the corona-virus was a “hoax” thus causing people to inadequately mitigate the virus’ spread.  Fox News false and deception is alleged by WASHLITE  to have contributed to our public-health crisis.

The corona-virus between February to Present has killed over 75,000 people throughout the World. Hardly a “hoax”.  https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-toll/

According to the Washington State Secretary of State’s website, WASHLITE was incorporated in Lewis County in 2017.  Liz Hallock, a Washington State attorney, who is running for governor as a Green Party candidate, is representing WASHLITE against Fox News.

Attorney Hallock  said “We are not trying to chill free speech here. But we believe the public was endangered by false and deceptive communications in the stream of commerce…  There are a lot of people who listen to Fox News, and they’re not taking the recommendations of public-health officials seriously. This is not about money; it’s about making sure the public gets the message this is not a hoax.”

According to attorney Hallock, at least one member WASHLITE  has the COVID-19, and has been stricken with secondary respiratory issues as a result of the virus.

Fox News general counsel issued the following statement relating to the lawsuit filed by WASHLITE  “Wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law. We will defend vigorously and seek sanctions as appropriate.”

WASHLITE board member Arthur West told The Daily Beast that he was  not impressed with Fox New’s general counsel threats of retribution, saying  ” we are not afraid of the big bad Fox.”

Fox News general counsel appears to be issuing a threat against public participation by threatening sanctions against those  who use the court system.

Under Washington State’s anti-SLAPP law, revised in 2010, direct petitioning activity as well as “any lawful conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of free speech” that are related to issues of public concern are protected.  The law provides for early special motions to strike which require SLAPP plaintiffs to demonstrate, at the outset of litigation, that they can establish the required elements of their case with convincing clarity.  If the plaintiff is unable to do so, the case is dismissed.  All discovery and any pending hearings or motions are suspended until the court rules on the motion.  A defendant who prevails on a special motion to strike is entitled to a fine of $10,000, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and the costs of litigation.  A frivolous motion to strike is subject to similar sanctions.  Under the law, either party has the right to seek an expedited appeal to a higher court if a court fails to promptly rule on a motion to dismiss.

In 2017, Washington State Supreme Court, lead by Justice Barbara Madsen, held that Washington State’s  Anti- Strategic Suits Against Pubic Participation (Anti-SLAPP) was unconstitutional on its face because it violated the Washington State Constitutional rights of persons to have a jury trial.

Since 2017, Washington State’s Open Government supporters have urged the Washington State Legislature to correct the deficiency in the Anti-SLAPP laws by inserting the right of  jury trial demand when a persons are faced with SLAPP suit.

Since the Washington State Supreme Court overturned Washington Anti-SLAPP laws in part, the Washington State Legislature has refused to bring the Anti-SLAPP laws into compliance with the Washington State Supreme Court’s order. Because the government’s political foes, like Gold Bar Reporter and Tim Eyman’s use of Anti-SLAPP provisions to stop political attacks on their message, which almost always involves corrupt acts of Washington State’s judiciary, executive officers, and the Washington State Legislature.

The Gold Bar Reporter said ” It’s all political, the Supreme Court, Jay Inslee, and Bob Ferguson, have worked jointly with Association of Washington Cities, and several of its members, which includes federal and state court judges to SLAPP down our rights to publish and use the court system to seek justice and expose corruption. Therefore, Anti-SLAPP was stuck down by the very same people inside the government we are exposing for corruption, and that all too often includes state judges, the governor, local officials like Gold Bar’s former Mayors who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, Crystal Hill Pennington ( convicted of fraud, 2000, 2005) and Joe Beavers, county prosecutors like Mark Roe who resigned in disgrace after he was caught calling gay people “dykes” and discriminating by threatening employees jobs, targeting only persons with disabilities, women, and employees over 40 people, and many Washington legislators. ”

The lawsuit states that Fox News characterized the corona-virus as a hoax during the two-month period, pointing to its March 9 broadcasts by Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Trish Regan. Sean Hannity said, “They’re scaring the living hell out of people and I see it as, like, ‘Oh, let’s bludgeon Trump again with this new hoax.’”

Sean Hannity lied, saying “we’ve never called the virus a hoax.” But Sean Hannity’s March 9, 2020, broadcast is proof that he did in fact call the virus a hoax, while Trish Megan’s posted “Corona-virus Impeachment Scam” accusing the Democrats of creating mass hysteria over the virus and shutting down the economy.

Calling the corona-virus a hoax was like someone yelling “Fire when there is no fire” attorney Hallock said.

WAHSLITE Attorney Hallock said her clients are seeking  nominal damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.  The lawsuit is asking a judge to decide whether or not Fox News violated Washington State’s Consumer Protection Act, and Order Fox News to stop disseminating false information about the virus.

WASHLITE Attorney Hallock would also like to see Fox News issue a  retraction and an apology to viewers.

Washington State  Attorney General Bob Ferguson has complete authority under Washington State Consumer Protection Act to investigate and enter the lawsuit as a necessary party on behalf of all Washingtonians.  As such, the Gold Bar Reporter sought comment on whether the Washington State Attorney General’s Office will either intervene or file a brief in support of WASHLITE’s lawsuit against Fox News.

Washington State  Attorney General Bob Ferguson has refused comment.

 

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