Fact Checking a Claim That Fox News Says Its Programming Is ‘Entertainment,’ Not News

Popular Facebook page Occupy Democrats went viral with a post claiming that Fox News avoids lawsuits by claiming that “it’s NOT real news, but rather ‘entertainment.’”

This post has a seed of truth to it: Fox News host Tucker Carlson was sued for slander in 2020 by Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who sold the rights of the story of her affair with Donald Trump to the National Enquirer. Carlson claimed that McDougal attempted to extort money from Trump—though she never asked Trump for money or even approached him. McDougal sued, and in response Fox’s legal team argued that his comments “cannot reasonably be interpreted as facts.”

Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil—district judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York—heard the case and agreed, finding that “given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statements he makes” and that “this overheated rhetoric is precisely the kind of pitched commentary that one expects when tuning in to talk shows like Tucker Carlson Tonight, with pundits debating the latest political controversies.”

“The Court concludes that the statements are rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate, and, as such, are not actionable as defamation,” wrote Vyskocil in her ruling.

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