A defamation lawsuit has been filed by Nina Jankowicz, a former member of the Biden administration, against Fox News in May. This case bears similarities to a previous high-profile lawsuit that resulted in a settlement of $787 million. Jankowicz alleges that Fox stars and commentators repeatedly defamed her by misrepresenting her role leading the federal Disinformation Governance Board during her brief tenure. According to her claims, these false allegations led to her departure from public service.
This new lawsuit is expected to test the extent of protections for free political speech concerning public officials, particularly in the realm of opinion, even if it involves distortions or falsehoods. Fox News has invoked these free speech protections in their argument for dismissing the case. For Jankowicz to hold Fox accountable for defamation, she must prove that the statements made about her were false and harmful, and that Fox either knew they were false or had reason to believe so.
Jankowicz’s legal team draws inspiration from a previous defamation lawsuit that Fox settled. They argue that Fox’s stars and commentators continued to spread falsehoods about her even after being informed of the truth. The lawsuit points to statements made by Fox personalities such as Tucker Carlson, who falsely claimed that Jankowicz would deploy armed individuals to people’s homes based on differing opinions.
This case also sheds light on the ongoing tensions between Washington and Fox News regarding misinformation and disinformation. Jankowicz’s tenure at the Disinformation Governance Board faced criticism and attacks from right-wing commentators, which she believes were inaccurately portrayed and contributed to false accusations against her.
The lawsuit has the potential to explore the boundaries between political exaggeration and factual statements about public officials. If it is allowed to proceed to the discovery phase, it could delve into whether intense media coverage crossed the line into false statements, with significant implications for all involved parties.