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Fox News Says Activist Group’s Lawyers Were ‘Caught Up’ in ‘Partisan Anti-Fox Fervor Fomented by Some Pundits’


More than a week after a Washington state judge dismissed an activist group’s lawsuit over Fox News’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, the network has issued a parting shot. In a Thursday filing, counsel for Fox News said that the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) didn’t file a “malicious” lawsuit, but it did get caught up in “anti-Fox fervor” stoked by unspecified “pundits” and “agitators.”

The straightforward filing from Fox News counsel revealed that the network is not moving for sanctions and is only seeking the costs it is entitled to receive by statute. Here, we are referring to filing fees and and a statutory attorney fee, adding up to a grand total of $334.94.

The brief filing did not merely contain mundane minutiae, however.

Fox News slammed the plaintiffs for making “astounding and frivolous” legal arguments. The most controversial of these WASHLITE arguments, as Law&Crime has reported, was “that news providers,” Fox News in this case, “do not enjoy First Amendment protection when they distribute their programming over a cable television system.”

The network’s lawyers also said WASHLITE’s allegations were “deceptive and distorted.”

“As legal professionals, we did not use these terms lightly. For example, the plaintiffs attributed to Sean Hannity statements that he never made, on a night when he was not on air, and that were actually made by someone else who is not affiliated with Fox, at a political event that Fox did not even televise,” the filing said.

Fox News called WASHLITE’s lawsuit “ill-advised and misguided,” but not “malicious.”

“Rather, it appears that plaintiffs and their counsel were caught up in the partisan anti-Fox fervor fomented by some pundits and agitators. Fox therefore will not move for sanctions. In the true spirit of the First Amendment, Fox will combat plaintiffs’ false accusations with its own true speech, and will continue to advance its mission of accurate reporting and clear opinions on the Coronavirus pandemic and other issues of public importance,” the filing concluded. “Accordingly, Fox seeks only the following statutory attorney fees and costs.”

A proposed judgment that has not yet been signed by Judge Brian McDonald was also filed on Thursday. It said:

Consistent with the Court’s May 27, 2020 order granting the Fox Defendants’ motion to dismiss, the Court enters final judgment as follows: The Fox Defendants are awarded judgment against the plaintiffs on all claims. As the prevailing party, the Fox Defendants are entitled to statutory costs as provided in RCW 4.84.010, .030, .060, and .080 and accordingly are awarded judgment against plaintiff Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) in the amount of $334.94 as set forth in the cost bill submitted by the Fox Defendants. The judgment amount shall accrue post-judgment interest at the rate of 12 percent per annum, pursuant to RCW 4.56.110 and RCW 19.52.020.

Fox filed a notice that included this proposed judgment as an exhibit.

“Please take notice that the Judgment attached as Exhibit A is noticed for presentation and entry by the Court on June 11, 2020,” the notice said.

Fox News seeks cost agains… by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.