The reviews of Fox News’ reporting on the coronavirus crisis are not getting any better.
A Washington state nonprofit, the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, has filed a lawsuit against the network for violating the Consumer Protection Act.
“The CPA declares unlawful and prohibits deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit alleges Fox News knowingly disseminated misleading information regarding the coronavirus.
Attorney Liz Hallock, representing WASHLITE, made a statement during an interview with The Seattle Times.
“We are not trying to chill free speech here. But we believe the public was endangered by false and deceptive communications in the stream of commerce,” Hallock said.
She added. “There are a lot of people who listen to Fox News, and they’re not taking the recommendations of public-health officials seriously. This is not about money; it’s about making sure the public gets the message this is not a hoax.”
This is not the first time Fox News has received backlash for its coverage. More than 70 journalism professors and journalists penned a letter to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch also accusing the network of spreading misinformation, as IJR previously reported.
The lawsuit goes on to explain how the coverage has interfered with the implementation of measures to help stop the spread of the virus. It also points out how the public has become ignorant of the way the virus spreads and its damaging effects.
The nonprofit points out how Fox News’ coverage has damaged the organization as one of its members has contracted the coronavirus.
The lawsuit suggests the misinformed public is taking risks and ignoring the seriousness of the virus. The public has also allegedly been deprived of the information needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus across the state.
It calls the network’s information “a serious public health issue.”
Lily Fu Claffee, general counsel for FOX News Media, reacted to the lawsuit.
“Wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law. We will defend vigorously and seek sanctions as appropriate,” Claffee told Times of San Diego.
WASHLITE alleges Fox News called the coronavirus a hoax and is calling on the network to retract the rhetoric.
“Defendants are thus liable for declaratory and injunctive relief and other appropriate relief under the CPA, as detailed herein,” the lawsuit reads. “Additionally, Plaintiffs seek a formal, clear and ringing retraction of Defendants’ representations that the virus is a hoax.”
Speaking about accusations in the letter penned by the journalism professors, Fox News’ Sean Hannity told Newsweek that he “never” called the virus a “hoax.”
“I never called it a ‘hoax.’ I said it was a hoax for them to be using it as a bludgeon on Trump,” he said.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated for clarity after publication.