In the midst of one of our nation’s most sobering episodes, an episode that has forced tens of millions onto the unemployment rolls, rendered nearly the entire nation on some form of shelter in place order, and seen wartime powers enacted to support the rapid production of critically needed equipment for healthcare workers; activists on the left have chosen to file frivolous litigation against the very people speaking truth—Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Fox News more generally.
Is it really too much to ask, given the stark reality facing our country, that Americans from all ends of the political spectrum come together to face down the coronavirus pandemic as a unified front? Apparently, for the activist lawyers at the leftist Washington League for Increased Transparency & Ethics, or WASHLITE, it is indeed too much to ask and is instead viewed as the perfect time to further divide our nation and attack the very people, arguably some of the only people, who have consistently provided reliable coverage since the beginning of the pandemic.
WASHLITE has filed what appears to be a clearly frivolous lawsuit against Fox News alleging that the network has aired false information about the coronavirus and demanded an injunction to prevent Fox from “interfering with or undermining the legitimate control measures” while the pandemic persists. In other words, these liberal activist lawyers want to silence Fox News during the remainder of this emergency.
Lawfare, “the misuse of legal systems and principles against an enemy,” is a common tactic of the American left. They utilize Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) like ammunition in battle, intended to silence, damage, delegitimize or otherwise destroy their political opponents. It’s a disgusting exploitation of the American judicial system and defending against such frivolous attacks has proven to be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.
In the situation involving Fox News, there are two primary elements of the case that must be evaluated to fully understand the juvenility of WASHLITE’s complaint. First, who—beyond just the broader organization—is behind the organization responsible for the lawsuit, and second, the merits of their overarching argument.
To accomplish the first point, look no further than WASHLITE board member Arthur West, who, according to reports, is not an attorney, but rather a former auto mechanic that “earns what he describes as a handsome living as a professional public-interest plaintiff.” Additionally, if not shockingly, the Daily Beast reports, “West said he has been arrested numerous times in protest and civil-disobedience incidents, but claimed the rewards of successful lawsuits have allowed him to afford a lovely house in Olympia, Wash., overlooking Puget Sound and a fleet of pricey sports cars.”
A “fleet of pricey sports cars”? Perennial plaintiffs like WASHLITE do not help the common good. They do not help the public at-large. They do not keep our communities safer. They do, however, as evidenced by Mr. West’s own comments to the Daily Beast, enrich themselves—hardly a noble use of the greatest justice system in the history of the world.
On the merits of the complaint, WASHLITE falls far short of credible, even eliciting a rebuke from former Fox News anchor Megan Kelly when she tweeted “anyone filing such a lawsuit would be laughed out of court and likely sanctioned by the court for filing a frivolous lawsuit.”
Let’s take a look at the facts.
Fox News was the first cable news outlet to mention the coronavirus and has conducted more than 80 interviews with members of the Coronavirus Task Force including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Since WASHLITE has targeted Fox News for apparently not being credible enough, take note that Fox has done more interviews with members of the Coronavirus Task Force than all of the other TV news networks combined.
Moreover, Fox News has consistently maintained what is likely the most diverse and in-depth coverage of the pandemic since its outset. Consider that way back on January 13th, while the Democrat mainstream media was smothering the country in Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi’s sham impeachment circus, Fox News was already on the record reporting that the “mysterious viral pneumonia outbreak in China claim[ed] its first victim.” In fact, the first mention of the coronavirus on cable news came on the January 17th The Ingraham Angle program and the first television interview with Dr. Fauci was on Special Report on January 28th.
Sean Hannity’s early coverage was near prophetic when on his January 24th program he stated, “they are closing movie theaters, there's only two cases in the U.S., I don't want to alarm anybody but it seems like maybe they didn't tell the world the truth which concerns me.” As we now know, China, conspiring with the World Health Organization, suppressed and omitted critical information related to the outbreak that, had it been made publicly available, would have quite likely significantly altered the course of global events and potentially saved thousands of lives. It was Sean Hannity, not the likes of Rachel Maddow or Anderson Cooper, to first raise these salient points.
From Ingraham to Hannity, Carlson to Regan and Judge Jeanine to Cavuto, Fox News has been consistent, aggressive and timely in their coverage of this pandemic. Conversely, the liberal mainstream media has been, at best, asleep at the wheel, and more aptly, willfully neglectful, not to mention panic-inciting, in their coverage.
Unconvinced? Take Vox news’ now-deleted January 31st tweet as proof, “Is this going to be a deadly pandemic? No.” Or this statement from March 4th made on CNN’s Anderson Cooper program, “if you’re freaked out at all about the coronavirus, you should be more concerned about the flu.”
I could transcribe thousands of words from the mainstream media consistently making contradictory statements about the coronavirus. When President Trump shows exceptional leadership and takes swift action, the media downplays the virus’ severity to undermine the president, then not minutes later on the same programs the media will interview a guest claiming the sky is falling and that it is a health imperative that the strictest of stay at home orders be enacted.
The simple fact remains, Fox News has done and continues to provide the public with reliable, trustworthy coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, while WASHLITE and activist attorneys like them who operate as attack dogs for the radical left abuse our legal system, exploiting it for their own selfish, financial and political gain. This kind of lawfare is a direct assault on all Americans with the clear intent of chilling free speech and undermining the First Amendment—as a free society, we must resoundingly rebuke these bad actors’ behavior.
Jake Hoffman is a contributing columnist at Townhall, the President and CEO of Rally Forge, one of the nation’s top conservative digital communications and media strategy firms, and an elected official in Arizona. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.