Judge Dismisses CCP Virus Coverage Lawsuit Against Fox News

May 28, 2020 Updated: May 28, 2020

A judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed against Fox News over the network’s CCP virus coverage.

The suit said Fox violated Washington state’s Consumer Protection Act, accusing some of its personalities of downplaying the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, the coronavirus that originated in China and causes a disease called COVID-19.

Superior Court Judge Brian McDonald said the plaintiff, the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, didn’t establish its case and its “assertions do not hold up to scrutiny.”

The league’s “professed goal in this lawsuit—to ensure that the public receives accurate information about the coronavirus and COVID-19—is laudable. However, the means employed here, a CPA claim against a cable news channel, runs afoul of the protections of the First Amendment,” added McDonald, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

In a statement responding to the ruling, Fox said that the group that filed the suit used a “false portrayal” of commentary to try “to silence a national news organization to settle a partisan grievance.”

“This was not only wrong, but contemptuous of the foundation of free speech and we are both pleased the court dismissed this frivolous case and grateful to the First Amendment community that rallied to our side,” it added.

COVID-19
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19. (Niaid-RML via AP/The Canadian Press)

Statements cited in the suit included one by Sean Hannity, a popular Fox host, telling viewers in early March that opponents of President Donald Trump were trying to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax” in reference to the virus.

Fox received support from the Internet & Television Association and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which filed an amicus brief arguing the case should be dismissed.

“The Plaintiff in this case has asserted that news providers do not enjoy First Amendment protection when they distribute their programming over a cable television system,” the filing stated. “That radical proposition is plainly wrong.”

Ruling against Fox would effectively strip First Amendment protections from any content distributed over the Internet, the committee said.

An attorney for the league, also known as WASHLITE, told news outlets that it plans to file an appeal.

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