Fox News execs build legal team in anticipation of getting sued for coronavirus misinformation: report
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch (Shutterstock)

On Friday, The Daily Beast reported that Fox News father-and-son owners Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are assembling a team of lawyers in preparation for lawsuits against the news network for promoting misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic that could undermine public health.

"According to a top Murdoch executive, the father-and-son media moguls are ready to go to war with potential plaintiffs such as the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics — aka WASHLITE — an activist non-profit that filed suit on Thursday against Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, and other defendants," reported Lachlan Cartwright. "The 10-page complaint, first reported by The Times of San Diego and filed in the superior court of Washington state’s King County, seeks a judgment that the Murdoch-controlled outlets violated the state’s consumer protection laws by 'falsely and deceptively disseminating 'News' via cable news contracts that the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 was a 'Hoax,' and that the virus was otherwise not a danger to public health and safety.'"

WASHLITE is seeking only "nominal" damages. Its main goal is to obtain an injunction stopping Fox News from "interfering with or undermining the legitimate control measures imposed within the State of Washington for the limited time period under which the pandemic is brought under control and until the pandemic is brought under control."

Lily Fu Claffee, general counsel for Fox News, blasted the suit as "wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law," and warned that "we will defend vigorously and seek sanctions as appropriate."

An unnamed executive in Murdoch's organization warned that "The strategy is no settlements, even if it costs way more to fight the lawsuit and seek sanctions for ambulance-chasing lawyers."

Lawsuits of this type are often difficult to win even without a high-powered legal team on the other end, as they entail thorny questions about press freedom and First Amendment rights.

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