People frequently refer to a court case that Fox won, which essentially gives the media the right to lie. This came from an appellate court decision that states that the FCC’s news distortion policy does not qualify as a rule, law, or regulation.

From Wikipedia:

Jane Akre and her husband Steve Wilson are former employees of Fox owned-and-operated station WTVT in Tampa, Florida. In 1997, they were fired from the station after refusing to knowingly include false information in their report concerning the Monsanto Company’s production of RBGH, a drug designed to make cows produce more milk. They successfully sued under Florida’s whistle blower law and were awarded a US $425,000 settlement by jury decision. However, Fox appealed to an appellate court and won, after the court declared that the FCC policy against falsification that Fox violated was just a policy and not a “law, rule, or regulation”, and so the whistle blower law did not apply.

The court agreed with WTVT’s (Fox) argument “that the FCC’s policy against the intentional falsification of the news — which the FCC has called its “news distortion policy” — does not qualify as the required “law, rule, or regulation” under section 448.102.[...] Because the FCC’s news distortion policy is not a “law, rule, or regulation” under section 448.102, Akre has failed to state a claim under the whistle-blower’s statute.”[1]

In 2001, Jane Akre and her husband won the Goldman Environmental Prize as a recognition for their report on RBGH. [2]

In 2004, Fox filed a US$1.7 million counter-suit against Akre and Wilson for trial fees and costs. Akre and Wilson both appear in a major portion of the 2004/5 critical documentary, The Corporation.

In 2007 Jane became the editor-in-chief of the national news desk at InjuryBoard.com.[3]

From FoxBGHSuit.com:

Fox appealed and prevailed February 14, 2003 when an appeals court issued a ruling reversing the jury, accepting a defense argument that had been rejected by three other judges on at least six separate occasions…

The whistle-blowing journalists, twice refused Fox offers of big-money deals to keep quiet about what they knew, filed their landmark lawsuit April 2, 1998 and survived three Fox efforts to have their case summarily dismissed.  It is the first time journalists have used a whistleblower law to seek a legal remedy for being fired by for refusing to distort the news.   Steve and Jane are now considering an appeal to the Florida state Supreme Court.

From CeaseSpin.com:

Appellate Court Rules Media Can Legally Lie.
By Mike Gaddy. Published Feb. 28, 2003

The court did not dispute the heart of Akre’s claim, that Fox pressured her to broadcast a false story to protect the broadcaster from having to defend the truth in court, as well as suffer the ire of irate advertisers. Fox argued from the first, and failed on three separate occasions, in front of three different judges, to have the case tossed out on the grounds there is no hard, fast, and written rule against deliberate distortion of the news.

The attorneys for Fox, owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch, argued the First Amendment gives broadcasters the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on the public airwaves.

In its six-page written decision, the Court of Appeals held that the Federal Communications Commission position against news distortion is only a “policy,” not a promulgated law, rule, or regulation. Fox aired a report after the ruling saying it was “totally vindicated” by the verdict.

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51 Responses to “Fox-Can-Lie Lawsuit”

  1. Why, I must inquire, have no subsequent steps been taken to close this egregious loophole? Surely, there would be broad bipartisan support for the “policy” in question being made a “promulgated law, rule or regulation.”

    • boris1421 says:

      I don’t think you could ever create a loop hole for such a broad law. The most important fact here is that we must protect freedom of speech. There are already laws pertaining to libel. But creating laws that make lying a crime without showing direct consequential monitary damages can only hurt our own ability to speak out against monsters like Fox and expose them for who they are. The best remedy is to inform and expose. The ignorant will arise from time to time motivated by propoganda such as in the McCarthy era but common sense will eventually prevail as long as we have free speech.

      • Observer2 says:

        I do agree that intention is key. Intention is usually inferred through prior knowledge of key information. So if it can be proven that Fox has written knowledge that the milk is contaminated, and yet state otherwise in news broadcast, then they are willfully lying and twisting facts. That is intention to lie. As to why they do it, is a different matter.

        So then, the question is can lying be considered a freedom of speech, if that is what you were implying.

        The freedom of speech does not include lying in the role of a newscaster or a news network company. Can a person, having sworn to tell the truth in the court of law, later lie, and claim to do it as a freedom of speech?

        Can the judge lie? Can officials lie as an act of freedom of speech?

        Just as we expect product advertisements to be factual or companies would face false advertisement charges, we cannot be expecting anything lesser from a news network.

        Given the social mindset that most people have of newspapers and news network to pursue the truth and present it to us, how can a news network knowingly fabricate and falsify news, *openly* admit it, and still get away with it?

        • craig klucas says:

          What is the difference between lying and yelling fire in a movie theater? Neither are for the public good?

      • Nonsense. There are plenty of limits to free speech, and specifically requiring organizations that label themselves “news” to not purposefully lie would be a good addition. They have exactly such a law in Canada, and they seem to get along fine…you’re not going to tell me they don’t have freedom of speech up there.

        • Bah is 100% right. If Fox want to claim to be a news station, and moreover to be fair and balanced, it isn’t unreasonable to expect that they will take precautions against broadcasting misleading or downright false facts. If they want to report lies, then they shouldn’t claim to be a news station.

          Free speech has reasonable limits – if you don’t believe me, try joking with the security people next time you fly that you have a bomb in your suitcase. If a person can’t make a stupid but essentially harmless joke, then how on earth can anyone justify a news station fabricating or falsifying news stories as being about “free speech”? Mind blowing…

      • Laws regarding lying should have no effect on the freedom of speech, only on the freedom to lie.

        As for the laws regarding libel, the overturning of the decision in this case made it clear that yes, they lied, and no, they’re not libel for any damages, so there goes that theory.

        More importantly, are you so short-sighted that you actually believe that the only damage of consequence caused by the misrepresentation of the facts is monetary? Lives are destroyed and businesses ruined by rumors and innuendo; this is many times more true when the misrepresentation of facts is in the mainstream media.

        Oh, exactly how would this hurt our ability to speak out against those like Fox unless we are also, in fact, lying? Inform and expose? Against a machine like Fox News? Really? That’s the best that you come up with? Without a system that does make them libel and costs them dearly, do you actually believe that Fox or their viewers would possibly care? Has it made them stop any of their misleading antics so far? I don’t believe so.

        I believe that there are only two reasons to possible want to watch Fox News. The first is obviously to watch it understanding that it is for entertainment purposes only. The second reason is because the viewer is a mindless, brain-washed Republican who believes that anything and everything that Fox News reports is the gospel. The first group laughs while watching Fox News, well, because they’re funny. The second group simply enjoys watching a national propaganda machine for the Republican Party do what it does, which in my limited experience is lying, misleading, misrepresenting, and hate-mongering.

        So, regarding your idea about exposing them for what they are…everyone already knows what they are and for their own reasons, does not care. But the lies still hurt people, and they hurt our country.

        • Interesting theory on libel haha but you have your words mixed up. You are thinking of LIABLE. They are not liable because the case was overturned. They are still very much guilty of the crime LIBEL, which is defamation through written, broadcastm, or other published works. So there goes your theory lol. Please try not to come off as a moron the next time you try to be condescending. Thank you have a nice life.

        • Geo: “As for the laws regarding libel, the overturning of the decision in this case made it clear that yes, they lied, and no, they’re not libel for any damages, so there goes that theory.”

          These are actually two different words that sound alike: “libel“=defamation in writing (as distinct from “slander”=defamation in speech); “liable“=subject to legal (e.g. financial) penalty for wrongdoing.

          So: “They’re not liable for any damages….” But “libel” has nothing to do with it; no-one is being defamed.

          “Without a system that does make them libel and costs them dearly,….” — again, here the word should be “liable.”

        • Geo: It is very hard to read the meaning of your post, as you have quite used the word “libel” a number of times when it seems you mean “liable,” while a comment appearing “above” yours in the tree mentions “laws pertaining to libel” and actually means libel (the act of stating information damaging to a person, which is known to be untrue).

          Examples: “They’re not LIABLE for any damages” and “Without a system that makes them LIABLE and costs them dearly…”

      • Ornella muth says:

        I believe , correct me if I am wrong, that if you are in a court of law, you are “sworn in ” ,and are supposed to tell the truth, under penalty of the law. So, if you lie, ( knowingly, of course ) because of free speach or anything else, you are guilty of perjury. So tell me how a judge can affirm your right to lie in a court ?

        • Steven Slatin says:

          Yes, if you are in a court of law you are sworn in to testify. And if you lie under oath, yes, you are guilty of perjury. The judge in this case did not affirm anyone’s right to lie while under oath and to a court. The judge affirmed that an institution (Fox News) while NOT under oath and in the normal conduct of its business may deliberately distort, misspeak, and lie.

          Put differently, a judge can affirm in a court your right to drive on a highway at 65 mph. But that doesn’t give you the right to drive a vehicle at 65 mph into the courtroom. You were confusing the two issues.

    • Free speech has limits. If you don’t believe me, try joking with the security people next time you fly about having a bomb in your suitcase.

      If not allowing a person to make an idiotic but essentially harmless joke is an acceptable curtailment of free speech, how on earth can you argue against expecting a news station to present news with a reasonable degree of accuracy and without deliberately lying or falsifying the information as an attack on free speech? It is a bankrupt argument.

  2. FoxNewsNeverLies says:

    The reason there’s been no bipartisan support for this loophole being removed is because the other major networks would be implicated as well. I watch Fox news clips before going to the gym (very effective at making me very angry and violent due to the obvious biases and lies) but CNN is every bit as pathetic at objective reporting- blue dog democrats? GIMME A BREAK! they’re sellouts! If you want a rational news source visit the “young turks” on their website or youtube.

  3. Fox News is just noise. It’s opinion journalism masquerading as news. They are allowed to and do lie on a normal basis. I find more truth on Cartoon Network than I do on Fox. Reupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes are worthless douche bags.

  4. Bulletproof Air says:

    You know, I probably wouldn’t care so much if it wasn’t for the fact that Fox labels their network as “News” and also tries to justify it’s usually one-sided “reports” as “fair and balanced.”

    It’s kinda like a liar beginning his sentence with, “You gotta believe me!”

    The longer Fox is able to wiggle through the morality filters of Americans’ brains the more I become concerned, because the ability of a network labeled as “News” to basically incite feelings of rage and hatred towards others, and throw out rumors and opinions like they’re “Breaking News Bombshells” basically speaks to the moral fiber of our Country’s media. They’re willing to take advantage of those who are upon hard times by saying there’s nothing BUT ahead.

    I sometimes wonder if Fox pundits are trying to one-up each other to see who can spout the most inflammatory soup of words…Facts STRAIGHT from your favorite blogger!

    We have the first Black President (as well as a pretty good one so far), a milestone now and in “future history” but Fox not only reports on him as being “Racist” but is now reporting that he’s “Treasonous.” Shouldn’t falsely telling Americans that our President is committing treason be a Treason in of itself??

    This is BEYOND false reporting, this is flat out incitement. This is racism. Fox is EVERYTHING we as a progressing country need to LEAVE BEHIND.

    If they could all just leave and start their own settlements….they could go back to the “good ol days.” Though they’d likely declare war on America within months…

    • pattywolford says:

      I couldn’t have said this better myself. Fox is a fear-mongering hate machine that incites fear and paranoia, stirs up ignorance as fact. I know many who listen to Fox News Radio, and Fox News TV 24/7. I’m not exaggerating. These people are no less programmed than a cult zombie!

    • Hey, why don’t we get FOX the MOCK news for false advertising. “Fair and balanced” is false advertisement because it is not “Fair and Balanced”. Who has the money to do this?

      • Sometimes, when I am very, very bored or, mostly, when my insomnia is at it’s worst and I’ve seen all the infomercials already, I turn to Fox NotNews. And take note of all the advertisers. Then I contact them and let them know I will NEVER buy their products or visit their restaurants because of where they advertise. Then I let everyone I know of the advertisers and their contact info. One of my doctors sometimes has that channel on too and I take notes of the advertisers when I’m there.

  5. To bad this summary gets it almost entirely wrong.

    There is no suit that “essentially gives the media the right to lie.” Akre and Wilson were suing under a very specific law, one that it turns out does not include FEC policy as grounds for a lawsuit.

    It’s probably also worth noting that Akre and Wilson sued on several counts, and lost on every one of them except one – the one that was subsequently tossed out by the appeals court.

    And for what it’s worth, the charge that FOX was trying to get them to “distort” their news story is essentially bunk – it was pure editing disputes that led to their dismissal, not some brave “refusal to lie” on their part.

    You can read the whole story here: http://www.campaignfreedom.org/blog/detail/fox-lies-videotape-debunking-an-internet-myth

    Sean Parnell
    President
    Center for Competitive Politics
    http://www.campaignfreedom.org

    • Yeah Fox did nothing wrong, thats why they tried repeatedly to give the journalists money to not tell anyone about how they did nothing wrong.

      Here’s a newsflash for you. The innocent do not offer huge sums of hush money.

    • just by leaving who you are, who you represent, Mr. Parnell, you have illegitimized your entire post. your website is obviously biased, just as fox news is, and all i had to do was read your statement of who funds it, and read one article.

      i’d like to point out that you don’t list who your major sponsors are, it says: In order to maintain its independence, the Center for Competitive Politics accepts no government funding. We receive funding from individuals and foundations, with small amounts coming from corporations. CCP is a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational foundation under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to CCP are tax-exempt under the law.

      so – Rupert Murdoc COULD be one of those “individuals” and without any posted legitamite documents of who funds you, and how much – no one can say how “small” corporation contributions are…directly or INDIRECTLY.

      how much funding did you get to do this bit of bullshit?

    • Sean, You misspelled the very first word of your post. “To” should be “too bad”. You lost me before you even had a chance.

  6. FoxNewsBoycott says:

    Sean, I almost missed your comment due to the spam filter… It seems that you are disputing, or intentionally skirting, a statement made by the court – see the part of the quote from Wikipedia in bold above – Either you deny that the court made that statement, or you refuse to include it in your accusation. You state that my “summary gets it almost entirely wrong,” but apparently fail to realize that I am quoting other sources, including the court’s decision. You also address the other counts that Akre and Wilson lost, but those are simply red herrings, intended to discredit the fact that the court made the aforementioned statement, which a basis for this “myth.” Furthermore, you side with Fox in that it was simply “editing disputes” that resulted in their termination – obviously, it’s an “editing dispute” if their story was edited to distort. Wouldn’t you dispute that if it happened to you?

  7. FOX RULES says:

    Well if we can have a website for Fox News Lies, there should be 1,000 websites for all the rest who lie.

    • Foxy does it better though….

      I watch Fox on nights I am looking for a good laugh, and then I get so upset that I start fighting with my husband.

  8. astroturf anyone says:

    sourcewatch: Center for Competitive Politics

    a Virginia-based non-profit group that supports corporate “speech” in political campaigns.

    Parnell was previously vice president for external affairs at The Heartland Institute.

    He also authored two research papers for the Texas Public Policy Foundation

  9. FoxNewsBoycott says:

    “FOX RULES” – Where are they?

  10. John Deegan says:

    All you need to hear (or rather to NOT hear) to convince you that ALL the major media outlets lie as a matter of policy is the fact that they will NEVER, EVER use the word “lie” to describe anyone, with the possible exception of convicted criminals. Regardless how obvious it may be to the rest of the world that the people in question did just that, they won’t use the word, for fear it may be used against them in retaliation. Which would then open up the whole question of truth in the news, which is something none of the news organizations want. Might negatively impact those quarterly dividends, after all. Couldn’t have that.

  11. It’s amazing to me how obvious it is that Fox is nothing but a propaganda network for the GOP and yet people still pretend like it’s an unbiased news source. It’s ridiculous!

    It’s the Fox Lies Network. Even referring to them with the “News” in their name is giving them way too much credit.

  12. Anono Mouse says:

    Fox News is full of hate speach. It is for people who enjoy hate speach and alot of drama. If Bill O’Reilly does not like what you have to say he will tell you to Shut Up and will kick you off of his show with alot of drama. Glenn Beck looks like he belongs in the insane asylum at times and does not understand that Martin Luther King Jr. was against war and not pro-war, as Glenn Beck seems to have missed out on the fact that MLK was a Peace Activist who spoke out against war as well as being better known as a Civil Rights Activist.
    Rush Limbaugh seems like a hate filled narcotics abusing junkie with too much money. He once ranted how he Hates Obamas’ Purple Lips… isn’t it kind of racist to hate someone based on the color of their skin?

  13. Anono Mouse says:

    Here are some Canadian viewpoints on Fox News.
    About three quarters into this film there are several scenes of Fox Newscasts.
    CBC – The Fifth Estate : The Lies That Led To War
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6815535985718796639#

  14. I don’t mind so much that Fox lies–I DO mind that they present it as ‘news’….for example, I don’t mind if Sunny Delight calls itself an orange DRINK, but I would think it an outright lie if it labeled itself as juice.
    Fox is the same-as long as they make it clear that they are not presenting a news show, and especially if they would also say when they are presenting opinions, it would certainly clear things up.

    • Is Sunny Delight not a juice?-if it contains any it qualifies to be called one. Is it not also Orange?

      Wikipedia:
      Juice is the liquid that is naturally contained in fruit and vegetables. It can also refer to liquids that are flavored with these or other biological food sources such as meat and seafood.

  15. FOXUNFAIRUNBALANCED says:

    We need a lawsuit for false advertising!!! they are unfair and unbalanced they black out Ron Paul big time and i’m sick of it.

  16. Justthefacts says:

    Wikipedia is a reliable source????????
    Better off reading graffiti.

    • Wikipedia was cited as a source for the above quote because that’s where the quote came from. The content from the Wikipedia page comes from a variety of sources cited on that page, which you are free to confirm or ignore, but please make informed statements, not those based on ignorance.

  17. I love it when people think wikipedia is a credible source :)

  18. Whinerbozo2 says:

    FOX = Freedom of Xpression!!! Nothing more, Nothing less!
    And, the “Death to America” crowd “HATE” the truth! This is just one of the reasons Osama loved MSNBC and CNN!!!

  19. You guys do know that this was Fox Broadcasting Company, not Fox News Network? You do know that don’t you? Of course you do. Right?

  20. F**K Fox

  21. Fred Harbinger says:

    This whole case stems from a locally ran station, not a national network. Move On

  22. Fox news is a cancer on the media whereever they go. They are the supermaket tabloid of news. If everyone every where keeps spreading the truth about them, they will become just like the Enquirer. Something cheap and smarmy, no one takes seriously. SPREAD THE WORD EVERY CHANCE YOU GET.!!!

  23. FACTS, TRUTH and HUMANITY!
    Beyond the true ignorance of those who were led and are being led by ROMNEY/ RYAN/ REAGAN/ BUSH/ BUSH/ HITLER/ MUSSOLINI and all the dictators who demand that “the little people” bow before their “superiority”: Beyond all these lie FACTS, TRUTH, and true HUMANITY! In the case of Hitler, Mussolini all the others eventually FACTS, TRUTH and HUMANITY were the victors. In the case of ROMNEY/ RYAN/ REAGAN/ BUSH/ BUSH/ and their ignorant, hate blinded followers the same will be true.

  24. There should be a law pertaining to purposely telling lies ot maniulate the public when it comes to any outlet calling itself the news.. if fox news wantas to spread a bunch of BS, they should not be allowed to call themselves the news..

  25. Why Fox is circling the drain in re: News~ they fought in court to hold onto their right to fabricate and distort news.

    http://ceasespin.org/ceasespin_blog/ceasespin_blogger_files/fox_news_gets_okay_to_misinform_public.html

  26. Hmmmmmm, I wonder if Faux news PAID the courts to rule in their favor.

  27. I have caught 4 of them committing perjury on:
    http://www.dearmrmurdoch.com/AppellantReplyBrief.html

    My whistleblower complaint:
    http://www.fontainesdomains.com/CCT8/WHISTLEBLOWERCOPY.gif

    Hospitalized refusing to lie to advertisers- retaliated on: http://www.dearmrmurdoch.com/Retaliation.html

    Several of these owners would be willing to go to court:
    http://www.fontainesdomains.com/DMM/c21.html

    http://www.ma-appellatecourts.org/display_docket.php?dno=2012-P-1085

    Bob Fontaine.

  28. Amber H. says:

    All this judgment really did was give the Sales Departments of many News agencies what they have always wanted. Power in and over the news room.

    Any Journalist will tell you that once the Sales guys get in you can kiss real reporting good-bye!

    It was always bad enough that the bosses at Fox let them in to get in the way and mess things up. Now they have messed up true Journalism for all!

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