The Dominion Lawsuit: Why Fox News’ Actions Pose a Threat to Journalism and Democracy

The bombshell court filing by Dominion Voting Systems as part of their $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News has sent shockwaves through the political media world. The filing alleges that top executives and on-air personalities of the network knew that the allegations of voter fraud made by Donald Trump and his team were false, yet pushed the “Big Lie” on the air regardless. The most influential “talent” privately acknowledged in emails and texts among themselves that the allegations the election was stolen from Trump were not just false, but extremely harmful.

This is a damning indictment of Fox News, which has been accused of being an accessory to the Jan. 6 insurrection, despite on-air personalities urging Trump to insist the violent mob at the Capitol back down on that fateful day — a day the network helped foment. It is clear that Fox News was proactively engaging in disrupting democracy and that Chris Stirewalt’s public testimony to the Jan. 6 committee was powerful evidence that Fox News is not journalism.

After Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich tweeted that “top election infrastructure officials” confirmed “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, arguably the two most powerful voices at the network, wanted her fired for reporting a truth they privately admitted and acknowledged. Heinrich deleted her tweet.

Carlson’s own lawyers argued in a 2018 defamation lawsuit by actress Karen McDougal that Carlson is not credible and what he says should not be believed. A federal judge dismissed the case, writing: “Fox persuasively argues that given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statement he makes.”

It is clear that Fox News has a history of peddling lies and disinformation, and it is imperative that consequences beyond the courts be imposed for the survival of journalism. Fox has deep pockets and can afford to take the hit, but can journalism afford it?

The network’s decision to give attention, air time, and credence to the unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election was made unapologetically out of fear of Trump supporters and the impact on the stock price of the company. Journalism, democracy, and speaking truth to power were nowhere in these exchanges of the cable network with the highest ratings for “news.”

It is time for the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) and other professional journalism organizations to use their power — their voice — to demand and facilitate White House and other press credentials be pulled from Fox News. The WHCA can pull Fox from the briefing room. Currently, Fox News’ Peter Doocy occupies the chair once held by revered legendary Helen Thomas who retired in 2010.

Those coveted 49 seats in the James Brady press briefing room should be occupied by news organizations that abide by the basic standards of journalism critical to keeping the public informed with accuracy and integrity. No entity is better poised to uphold those standards than the WHCA.

According to their website: “The White House Correspondents’ Association exists to promote excellence in journalism as well as journalism education, and to ensure robust news coverage of the president and the presidency. We also work to encourage new generations of White House correspondents through our college scholarship programs.” The WHCA has an inherent obligation to set an example and raise the bar for young future journalists in their scholarship program.

This also opens the door to rescinding Fox press credentials from the briefing rooms at various federal agencies. Likewise, the House and Senate Press Galleries should rescind Fox credentials. Speaker Kevin McCarthy “gifting” Tucker Carlson 44,000 hours of Jan. 6 raw security footage as an exclusive should be halted by these organizations or at least force meaningful consequences.

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