‘A chilling transgression’ of free speech: FCC commissioner slams 2 House Dems asking cable companies if they plan to keep conservative outlets
Ahead of a Wednesday congressional hearing regarding the role of companies that provide cable television service in the spread of misinformation concerning the 2020 election, two committee members sent a letter to cable providers Monday asking if they plan to continue carrying outlets such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network (OANN).
The New York Times was the first to report on the story.
Fox News in particular has been the target of a $2.5 billion defamation lawsuit from the election technology company Smartmatic accusing the outlet, as well as a handful of anchors and frequent guests, of spreading misinformation about voting machines and the company itself. Fox has denied Smartmatic’s claims and filed a motion to throw out the lawsuit.
In the lead-up to the hearing, titled “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media,” two Democrat members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday penned a letter to AT&T, Comcast, Dish, Spectrum, Verizon, Cox, and Altice, inquiring about their role in “the spread of dangerous misinformation.”
“To our knowledge, the cable, satellite and over-the-top companies that disseminate these media outlets to American viewers have done nothing in response to the misinformation aired by these outlets,” California Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney wrote in the letter, per The Times.
“What steps did you take prior to, on and following the Nov. 3, 2020, elections and the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks to monitor, respond to and reduce the spread of disinformation, including encouragement or incitement of violence by channels your company disseminates to millions of Americans?” the letter asked the companies.
“Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News, OANN and Newsmax on your platform both now and beyond the renewal date?” the letter continues. “If so, why?”
In his denouncement of the letter, Carr also said that, “Debate on matters of public interest should be robust, uninhibited, and wide open. More speech is better than less.” He continued, saying, “Yet the concerted effort by Democrats to drive political dissent from the public square represents a marked departure from these First Amendment norms.”
“A newsroom’s decision about what stories to cover and how to frame them should be beyond the reach of any government official,” he added, “not targeted by them.”
Fox News also denounced the congressional effort, saying in a statement, according to The Times: “For individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent.”
Dominion Voting Systems, another election technology company at the center of 2020 election fraud allegations, has sued three Trump-aligned individuals who spread dubious claims about the company and its voting machines following Election Day, with the individuals having appeared on Newsmax in the weeks after the election. Two of former members of former President Donald Trump‘s legal, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, were sued in separate lawsuits last month, each demanding over $1 billion in damages. On Monday, Dominion sued Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow.
Newsmax defended its election coverage as accurate and called the letter an “attack on free speech,” The Times also reported.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.