There's the "novel coronavirus"—and then there's the "novel legal theory" concerning it floated by Joy Reid, pursuant to which Fox News could somehow be legally liable for the death of its viewers from the virus. So much for all the alarm in the liberal media about legal punishments for news organizations in the Trump era.
On her MSNBC show today, Reid played a clip from her March 29th show in which longtime Fox foe and MSNBC contributor Gabriel Sherman (now a correspondent for Vanity Fair) claimed that Fox News "insiders" had told him that:
"There's a real concern inside the network that their early downplaying of the coronavirus actually exposes Fox News to potential legal action by viewers who maybe were misled and actually have died from this.
Reid then brought on New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Reid cited a lawsuit brought against Fox News by a Washington state non-profit alleging that the network had misled viewers concerning the virus. Reid then asked James if she agreed that there is "potential liability for those who downplayed the seriousness of this virus?"
James is a well-documented Trump despiser. Even CNN described her as conducting a "war" against the president. So you might have thought that James would be only too glad to agree that FNC could be liable. But she declined to do so, claiming unfamiliarity with the facts of the Washington case.
A surprising reaction, on its face. But if there's one person in America who most ardently and publicly downplayed the risks of the virus, it was none other than James's fellow NY Dem, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. As late as March 10th on Morning Joe, de Blasio was encouraging New Yorkers to live life "normally," claiming there was "very little threat" for healthy people under 50. So if FNC could be vulnerable to lawsuits, de Blasio could be liable, in technical legal terms, out the wazoo.
Let's also consider Sherman's claim that Fox "insiders" told him that there was real concern within the network that it could be exposed to legal action by viewers who died from the virus. What kind of network "insider" could conceivably make such a potentially hugely damaging admission to any reporter, let alone one famously hostile to Fox News? Sherman is the author of a highly unflattering book about Fox News founder Roger Ailes.
Here's the transcript.
10:42 am EDT
GABRIEL SHERMAN [clip from AM Joy of 3/29/20]: What I’ve been talking to Fox insiders over the last few days, there's a real concern inside the network that their early downplaying of the coronavirus actually exposes Fox News to potential legal action by viewers who maybe were misled and actually have died from this. I've heard that Trish Regan’s being taken off the air is reflective of this concern that Fox News is in big trouble by downplaying this virus. So I think this is a case where Fox’s coverage, if it actually winds up being proved that people died because of it, this is a new terrain in terms of Fox being possibly held liable for their actions.
JOY REID: Fox News has finally been forced to confront reality and the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak . . . Now, a Washington state non-profit has sued Fox News under the state's consumer protection act, arguing that the network acted in bad faith by spreading false information about the virus and potentially putting their viewers in danger. Joining me now is the Attorney General of New York State, Letitia James . . . As New York Attorney general, and the state in which Fox News is headquartered, is there potential liability for those who downplayed the seriousness of this virus, in light of the fact that polls show that Fox News viewers are less likely to believe that the threat is real?
LETITIA JAMES: Joy, I don't know, I don’t know all of the facts. And I’ve not read the paper.