Fox News was hit on Wednesday with another defamation lawsuit, this one from a woman who said the network promoted lies about her that generated serious threats to her safety and harmed her career prospects.
The suit was filed on behalf of Nina Jankowicz, the former executive director of a short-lived Department of Homeland Security division assigned with coordinating efforts to monitor and address disinformation threats to national security. Right-wing pundits and politicians falsely portrayed her group as part of an Orwellian bid to control the speech and thought of ordinary Americans.
Ms. Jankowicz, a prominent specialist in Russian disinformation and online harassment, became the primary subject of their attacks. In 300 mentions over eight months on Fox last year, she was repeatedly demeaned and defamed in highly personal language, the lawsuit asserts. Hosts including Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo and Sean Hannity said her job was “to silence anyone who criticizes the Biden administration” and possibly even, as Mr. Carlson warned, “get men with guns to tell you to shut up.”
The unit Ms. Jankowicz briefly headed, called the Disinformation Governance Board, had no such powers, or any direct authority to affect speech. The department created it to help unify and oversee existing efforts by its various divisions to monitor and defend against disinformation from foreign agents seeking to influence elections; cartels promoting human smuggling operations; and those seeking to undermine the government’s public health and safety efforts.
After Ms. Jankowicz resigned to escape the deluge of criticism — which had caused an abrupt suspension of the board’s activities — Fox hosts and guests falsely said she was fired, according to the suit. [Continue reading…]