What an ugly beast.
It has only been in recent years that I’ve become interested in politics. Once I began to see how political officials shape the country and how laws or proposed legislation can impact people, I started paying more attention to politics. I’m still far from immersed in the political world, but I keep up to a degree. I regularly read news from sources like: BBC, Daily KOS, Al Jazeera, Mother Jones, Guardian, PolitiFact, Media Matters, Think Progress, and Raw Story. I learned to avoid news from network television as they often don’t present enough information to develop an informed opinion on a given subject. Nowhere is this more evident than FOX News. The channel churns out information that is misleading at best, and outright lies more often than not. The “facts” that FOX News presents are very often easy to counter. The accurate information is out there. For a years I thought they were just spinning and twisting the truth, but I did not know they deliberately lie and distort. At least not until today:
In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.
Back in December of 1996, Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, were hired by FOX as a part of the Fox “Investigators” team at WTVT in Tampa Bay, Florida. In 1997 the team began work on a story about bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto Corporation. The couple produced a four-part series revealing that there were many health risks related to BGH and that Florida supermarket chains did little to avoid selling milk from cows treated with the hormone, despite assuring customers otherwise.
According to Akre and Wilson, the station was initially very excited about the series. But within a week, Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story. When they refused and threatened to report Fox’s actions to the FCC, they were both fired.(Project Censored #12 1997)
Akre and Wilson sued the Fox station and on August 18, 2000, a Florida jury unanimously decided that Akre was wrongfully fired by Fox Television when she refused to broadcast (in the jury’s words) “a false, distorted or slanted story” about the widespread use of BGH in dairy cows. They further maintained that she deserved protection under Florida’s whistle blower law. Akre was awarded a $425,000 settlement. Inexplicably, however, the court decided that Steve Wilson, her partner in the case, was ruled not wronged by the same actions taken by FOX.
FOX appealed the case, and on February 14, 2003 the Florida Second District Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the settlement awarded to Akre. The Court held that Akre’s threat to report the station’s actions to the FCC did not deserve protection under Florida’s whistle blower statute, because Florida’s whistle blower law states that an employer must violate an adopted “law, rule, or regulation.” In a stunningly narrow interpretation of FCC rules, the Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a “law, rule, or regulation,” it was simply a “policy.” Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly. (Anybody surprised this happened in Florida?)
During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so.
FOX News argued-successfully-that they have to right to present information in any manner they choose. They are not responsible for accurate reporting or factual information. They can mislead viewers all they want, and they do that. Over and over and over again.
I live in the panhandle of Florida. I’ve worked in many establishments with conservative guests. So many of them listen to the lies of FOX News and treat them as fact. I’m disgusted that FOX is able to do this. That they have no obligation to report accurately is a travesty of journalism. They’ve deliberately lied and deceived the public and continue to do so today. They’ve helped cause strife and dissent in the US to a fantastic degree. This is shameful.