Fox News recently terminated prime-time host Trish Regan, who called coronavirus a “scam” at the beginning of March.
Fox News is purportedly afraid of lawsuits stemming from the network’s poor coverage of the coronavirus in early March.
On Friday, for example, Fox Business announced that it had “parted ways” with prime-time host Trish Regan.
Regan, notes The Week, attracted considerable controversy for calling novel coronavirus a “scam” in a March 9 segment. Alongside suggested the pandemic was a hoax, Regan also suggested that the disease was a Democratic fable meant to “demonize and destroy the president.”
Regan’s remarks, says the New York Times, were delivered in front of a graphic reading, “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.”
Other media outlets—including Times—have called Regan’s termination almost unprecedented.
The Times claims that Fox’s own journalists were taken “by surprise,” in large part because “Fox executives are accustomed to withstanding public pressure, and rarely make personnel moves that can be construed as validating criticisms of the network.”
Gabriel Sherman, a Vanity Fair journalist, told MSNBC that Regan’s ouster may signify an attempt to cleanse Fox of legal liability.
“Fox News tried to do their original playbook [in early March], which was dismiss it as a hoax, say that this is another partisan attempt by Democrats to hurt Donald Trump, and this was the case where they could not prevent reality,” Sherman said. “Fox News is a very powerful media organization, but it cannot stop people from dropping dead.”
And Fox, says The Daily Beast, is already beginning to face the repercussions of its misinformation. On Thursday, the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics—also known as WASHLITE—sued the network and one of its owners, Rupert Murdoch. The 10-page complaint alleges, among other things, that Fox violated Washington state 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’s director, Arthur West, told the Times of San Diego that Fox’s initial treatment of coronavirus cannot go unanswered—in part, West says, because the network downplayed the need for social distancing.
“That’s the real evil of this type of programming,” West said. “We believe it delayed and interfered with a prompt and adequate response to this coronavirus pandemic within the state of Washington.”
The lawsuit requests only “nominal damages” and “reasonable attorneys’ fees.”
More importantly, though, WASHLITE is requesting an injunction that would prevent Fox and its associated outlets 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.”
The Daily Beast notes that WASHLITE’s suit also names as defendants AT&T and Comcast.