Things aren’t going well for Fox News, which just agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a brand-undermining defamation case with Dominion Voting Systems only to be hit by another one on Wednesday, this one on behalf of Nina Jankowicz, who specializes in Russian disinformation.
The New York Times reported Jankowicz’s suit, citing her claims that the “network promoted lies about her that generated serious threats to her safety and harmed her career prospects.”
Jankowicz was the executive director of a three weeks long Department of Homeland Security division called the Disinformation Governance Board, which was “assigned with coordinating efforts to monitor and address disinformation threats to national security. Right-wing pundits and politicians falsely portrayed her group as part of an Orwellian bid to control the speech and thought of ordinary Americans.”
In fact, her work did not try to control speech or thought like a, I don’t know, ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law might or a book ban would.
Ironically or predictably, the DHS board on Russian disinformation became a victim of disinformation, as Jankowicz put it to NPR . She told NPR she had been “barraged with abuse, harassment and death threats.”
The usual suspects targeted and demonized her: “In 300 mentions over eight months on Fox last year, she was repeatedly demeaned and defamed in highly personal language, the lawsuit asserts. Hosts including Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo and Sean Hannity said her job was ‘to silence anyone who criticizes the Biden administration’ and possibly even, as Mr. Carlson warned, ‘get men with guns to tell you to shut up.’”
None of that was true, of course. Hence the defamation, but they also said she was fired, and she actually quit due to their targeting of her.
Jankowicz is well known for her work focused on strengthening democratic institutions, so it tracks that Fox News treated Jankowicz as if she were on a hit list.
Their relentless lies about her culminated in finally causing her to quit due to harassment and threats against her, which caused “an abrupt suspension of the board’s activities” — just as Fox and many Republican lawmakers who joined in the harassment wanted.
In yet another layer of right wing billionaire bingo, self-identified brainchild Elon Musk, who is an expert at taking other people’s ideas and making them worse but with better marketing, is bringing Tucker Carlson’s show to Twitter, suggesting his goal is amplifying fascist leaning disinformation rather than making profits. Fired for defaming companies or people or being a creep? Twitter wants you! He, also, has worked to amplify Russian disinformation while casting aspersions on experts on Russian propaganda efforts. It’s never enough for these guys apparently, and yes, our government is still paying Elon and funding his ventures with our tax dollars. It’s almost as if our entire government wants to fail.
In August of 2022, DHS terminated the Disinformation Governance Board and rescinded its charter. In fact, the Biden administration reportedly allowed right-wing attacks to shut this operation down, in yet another bowing down to right wing attacks by a government ostensibly led by people who are not right wing.
It was operating for just weeks when it was paused after Jankowicz “was the victim of coordinated online attacks as the administration struggled to respond,” as Washington Post put it then.
It’s not as if coordinated right wing attacks are a new thing. A year ago Republicans blocked a domestic terrorism PREVENTION bill dealing with hate crimes and gun reform. Yes, we must not prevent domestic terrorism. How then could they plot another and more successful attack on our government? Won’t anyone think of the terrorists?
The Times pointed out that the division Fox News helped shut down with lies worked “to monitor and defend against disinformation from foreign agents seeking to influence elections; cartels promoting human smuggling operations; and those seeking to undermine the government’s public health and safety efforts.”
Human smuggling, you know, like Republicans say they are against and accuse everyone else of doing. Foreign agents seeking to influence elections: Same. Undermining public health and safety efforts: Same. Same. Same.
The most pertinent question at this point is what exactly is it about a division meant to protect the U.S. from Russian disinformation that got Fox News hosts so frothy and rabid.
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Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.