Fox News was hit on Wednesday with another defamation lawsuit, this one from a woman who said the network promoted lies about her that generated serious threats to her safety and harmed her career prospects.
The suit was filed on behalf of Nina Jankowicz, the former executive director of a short-lived Department of Homeland Security division assigned with coordinating efforts to monitor and address disinformation threats to national security. Right-wing pundits and politicians falsely portrayed her group as part of an Orwellian bid to control the speech and thought of ordinary Americans.
Ms. Jankowicz, a prominent specialist in Russian disinformation and online harassment, became the primary subject of their attacks. In 300 mentions over eight months on Fox last year, she was repeatedly demeaned and defamed in highly personal language, the lawsuit asserts. Hosts including Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo and Sean Hannity said her job was “to silence anyone who criticizes the Biden administration” and possibly even, as Mr. Carlson warned, “get men with guns to tell you to shut up.”
The unit Ms. Jankowicz briefly headed, called the Disinformation Governance Board, had no such powers, or any direct authority to affect speech. The department created it to help unify and oversee existing efforts by its various divisions to monitor and defend against disinformation from foreign agents seeking to influence elections; cartels promoting human smuggling operations; and those seeking to undermine the government’s public health and safety efforts.
After Ms. Jankowicz resigned to escape the deluge of criticism — which had caused an abrupt suspension of the board’s activities — Fox hosts and guests falsely said she was fired, according to the suit.
“Even after achieving their stated goal of driving me out of government and ending the board, they kept using me as a punching bag,” Ms. Jankowicz said in an interview on Wednesday. “It shouldn’t be something we just accept — that the most powerful cable network in the world can attack individuals willy-nilly and not face any consequences after they ruin their lives.”
Ms. Jankowicz, 34, filed her suit in the same Delaware state court system where Dominion Voting lodged its $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. The network settled that case for $787.5 million last month, avoiding a lengthy and bruising trial. (The Jankowicz suit is seeking unspecified damages.)
That deal represented a tacit acknowledgment that Fox’s promotion of falsehoods about election fraud in the 2020 election was wrongful. But it did not answer the question of whether Dominion would have been able to meet the high legal threshold required to prevail in defamation suits: proving that those who made the statements knew they were false or did not bother to find out.
Ms. Jankowicz would have to meet that same threshold. Fox declined to comment on Wednesday.
Her suit nevertheless represents a continued legal threat to the network, possibly made worse by Dominion’s lawsuit. The Dominion case produced reams of internal Fox News communications showing that various hosts and executives knew the claims against the company were indeed false.
(Excerpt) Read more in: DNYUZ