Robert Reich: What’s The Perfect Punishment For Fox News? – OpEd
By Robert Reich
The trial of Fox News begins today. If Dominion Voting Systems wins, I have a suggestion for what the court should demand of Fox News, in addition to paying damages for the harm to Dominion.
The judge has already ruled that on-air statements by Fox News hosts, asserting that Dominion’s voting machines played a role in causing Donald Trump to lose the 2020 election, were false. The task for the jury is to decide whether Fox made those false statements with actual malice.
If Dominion wins, it will be because Fox’s own internal emails, text messages, and depositions revealed that its hosts (and owner, Rupert Murdoch) knew that the allegations of election fraud by Trump and his allies were baseless but kept airing them anyway, in part because they feared that another right-wing network, Newsmax, would otherwise steal their audience. When Fox News reporters shot down the allegations publicly, the network’s big personalities complained internally that telling their viewers the truth was hurting the network’s brand.
To this day, Fox News viewers still don’t know the truth — neither about Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, nor about Fox News’s role in promoting Trump’s big lie. This is the real damage of the Fox News propaganda feedback loop: After inflaming right-wing conspiracy theories, Fox has a financial incentive to continue to push them in order to retain its inflamed audience, which further inflames them.
The case that starts today raises a fundamental question: Will there be a penalty for profiting from the spread of dangerous misinformation?
Think of the poison Fox has knowingly been pumping into America as analogous to the poison cigarette manufacturers pumped into Americans’ lungs. Part of the remedy for the cigarette poison has been warning disclosures on every pack. Why not an analogous remedy for Fox News’s poison?
If Dominion wins, the court should order Fox News hosts — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and all other hosts similarly implicated — to tell their viewers every half hour, at least until the end of 2024:
“When we told you the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, we lied. Trump lied, too. He continues to lie. The 2020 election wasn’t stolen. Biden won fair and square.”
As on cigarette packs that must vary their warnings, the court should require alternative disclosures, perhaps every other week:
“We apologize for lying to you about the 2020 election. There was no fraud. Biden won. We lied because we were afraid of losing ad revenue if we told the truth. Shame on us.”
And every third week:
“The 2020 election wasn’t stolen from Trump. Trump made that up, and we repeated his lie because we’re greedy and unscrupulous. And that’s the truth.”
What do you think? Should Fox News be required to issue any otherdisclosure messages?
One thought on “Robert Reich: What’s The Perfect Punishment For Fox News? – OpEd”
Yes, I tend to agree although I believe the frequency and duration might be modified a bit. I would have had Dominion actually write the mea culpa, with Fox News then frequently repeating it, as part of the settlement.