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Could Fox 'News' Be Liable For Downplaying Coronavirus Risks?

Gabriel Sherman tells Joy Ann Reid that there are real concerns at FOX News that they may be in serious trouble.
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Gabriel Sherman joined Joy Ann Reid on Sunday mornings edition of AM Joy to discuss how cable news has been handling their coverage of the coronavirus crisis and he presented an interesting tidbit of information from inside the FOX News* machine that was not public...until now.

Insiders are worried that their denial and flat out lies about coronavirus could have exposed the station - and possibly the hosts - to legal liability for any deaths that may have come directly from the lies being spewed by FOX.

REID: Gabe, you know, there is a self-selection after that of people who, you know, take in a lot more news. That's the people who watch cable news, right? People who are watching cable news are a lot more in the news junkie category and then in the case of that, your choices are MSNBC or CNN or, if you're choosing FOX, it's because it favors the Republicans. It's because it's news that favors your world view. That's why you're watching it. So, I think people assume everyone knows the failures of the Trump Administration. They'll find out when it hits them. depending on what you're watching, you know more or you know less.

SHERMAN: Without question, I think that's been a fixture of this presidency from day one. If you look at polls that show Republicans views on certain issues, it's a completely different reality than people who gather their news from a wide array of sources. What's really interesting, I think unique about the coronavirus story is that FOX News tried to do their original playbook, which was dismiss it as a hoax, say that this is another partisan attempt by Democrats to hurt Donald Trump, and this was the case where they could not prevent reality. FOX News is a very powerful media organization, but it cannot stop people from dropping dead. What happened is that people did start dying. We did see hot spots in New York, on the West Coast and now we're seeing one in the deep south, which is getting closer to Trump country, and FOX News has had to pivot to actually cover this as a real story. The President's handling of this is going to be viewed ultimately by how we get out of it, but this is a case where, at least on the macro story of us understanding of what is happening in America, FOX viewers are now confronting what the rest of us have known since February and early March is that this is a global pandemic that is unprecedented in American history.

REID: To stay you with for a moment, the irony is FOX News is in New York. It's literally across the street from MSNBC. It's in Rockefeller Plaza. They are in the middle of it with all the other New Yorkers. We saw Trish Regan come out and label it all a fraud. She's now no longer there. I don't know what happened with her show but I guess it's not airing anymore. You have had FOX anchors who are as likely as anyone on this panel to know someone who gets sick with covid-19. It's interesting to have to watch them confront reality, as you say, is deadly reality, that they can't cover for Trump on this. There's no way they can keep doing it. I wonder if the same sort of dynamic is going to happen with Sinclair, which is ten times -- it's FOX times ten and in your traffic and weather together and they've tried to also spin things in his favor. They do add commentary from people like former Trump officials. How are they handling it?

SHERMAN: This is a question that's more deceptive about Sinclair is their local newscasts are not labeled as a Sinclair channel. You don't know it has a right-wing ideology behind the owners of the local news station, so you're absorbing it as if it's just straight network news. I just want to get back to the FOX of it all real quick. When 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 have actually died from this. I've heard Trish Regan's being taken off the air is, you know, reflective of this concern that FOX News is in big trouble by downplaying this virus and The New York Times reported days ago that the Murdoch family was privately taking the coronavirus seriously. The Murdoch's, of course, own FOX News. They were taken personal steps to protect themselves while anchors like Trish Regan and Sean Hannity were telling viewers it was a hoax and putting themselves in potentially mortal danger. In this case, FOX's coverage, if it proves people died because of it, this is a new terrain of FOX possibly being held liable for their actions.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, would make me happier than seeing a class action lawsuit against FOX News, the Murdochs and all of the anchors holding them personally, civilly and criminally liable for their misleading propaganda coverage of coronavirus. This station poses an existential threat to not only our country, but to the world. The best thing that could happen would be for it to be shut down.

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