The former head of the Biden administration’s short-lived Disinformation Governance Board, Nina Jankowicz, has sued Fox News for defamation, claiming that reports by the outlet damaged her reputation and threatened her safety.
In a complaint filed earlier this week, Jankowicz accused Fox of creating a “fabricated, bullying narrative” about her in more than 300 TV segments last year, including claims that she “intended to censor Americans’ speech” in her role at the disinformation board, which was quickly shut down after it was established in 2022.
“Fox’s coverage of Jankowicz was neither news nor political commentary; it was cheap, easy entertainment untethered from the facts, designed to make consumers believe that Jankowicz could and would suppress their speech,” the lawsuit said.
Jankowicz went on to claim that the disinformation project was terminated by the White House “as a result of Fox’s false statements and the ensuing harassment,” which she said continued even after her resignation from the board last May. This harassment included threats of violence, the suit alleged, also claiming that “threatening and harassing messages and social media posts are usually linked to Fox’s coverage of Jankowicz.”
“The barrage of threats and harassment constitute an actual threat to Jankowicz’s and her family’s safety, causing severe and foreseeable distress,” it added.
The defamation suit may have a steep hill to climb, however, as plaintiffs in such cases are required to prove that a party not only made false statements, but did so with malice, or knowingly spread falsehoods with disregard for the truth.
Fox recently agreed to settle another defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which accused the outlet of making false claims about its balloting machines during the 2020 presidential race. The case was settled out of court in April and cost Fox nearly $800 million, a major blow to the company.
The Disinformation Governance Board was created by the Department of Homeland Security ostensibly to monitor the flow of alleged misinformation from foreign states and “transnational criminal organizations.” While officials insisted the agency would have no authority to censor Americans or track their speech, the creation of the board triggered public outcry, with critics likening it to the ‘Ministry of Truth’ in George Orwell’s ‘1984’.
Four months after it was first announced, the DHS permanently disbanded the board last August. However, leaked documents obtained by The Intercept show that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a body within the DHS, is still engaged in combating “disinformation,” including by directing social media platforms to censor certain anti-establishment narratives.
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