June 7, 2008

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In a June 4 article headlined "Judge tosses school official's lawsuit against Fox News," the Associated Press reported on the dismissal of a school superintendent's lawsuit against the Fox News Channel and Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade for repeating as fact an online parody news report of a school prank that included fabricated quotes attributed to the superintendent. The judge called Doocy and Kilmeade "gullible," as the AP noted, and while he dismissed the lawsuit, the Fox & Friends segment in question marked at least the third time since 2004 that Fox News has issued a retraction and apology for airing a fake news report that repeated false information. In fact, the segment aired after Fox News' Vice President for News John Moody reportedly warned staff in January 2007 that "seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC." In dismissing the suit, U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby wrote:

The facts in this case -- a morning cable news show derisively reporting events and statements obtained unwittingly from an online parody -- should provide grist for journalism classes teaching research and professionalism standards in the Internet age. But First Amendment principles developed long before the Internet still provide protection to the gullible news program hosts against this public official's claims for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. Poetic justice would subject the defendants to the same ridicule that they accorded the plaintiff. But in real life, the aggrieved school superintendent must be satisfied with their later retraction and a professional reputation sullied less than theirs. Read on...

Somehow, this comes to mind.

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