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Tucker Carlson and Fox news are currently at the center of a lawsuit dealing with a unique premise. As the host of Tucker Carlson Tonight, is the longtime Fox News host responsible for presenting the news or for presenting commentary on the news? A new lawsuit is claiming slander, but Fox News’ lawyer Erin Murphy argues commentary is not a fact-based news medium.
Here’s what’s happening. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal previously made $150,000 from the National Enquirer after giving details of an affair she had with Donald Trump. What does this have to do with Fox News? After this story came to light McDougal was brought up on Tucker Carlson Tonight during a segment that also brought up Stormy Daniels. Per the lawsuit, Karen McDougal is claiming Tucker Carlson defamed her when he made a comment about facts earlier in the broadcast and then made the following comment:
Two women approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn't give them money. Now that sounds like a classic case of extortion.
Erin Murphy’s argument is pretty simple as she detailed in court (via THR) the series is not presenting facts and is rather trying to promote conversation and debate around facts. She said Tucker Carlson Tonight is engineered to make people “think harder,” also noting:
What we’re talking about here, it’s not the front page of The New York Times. It’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, which is a commentary show.
Per the Fox News legal team, Tucker Carlson was not acting with “malice” when he made the comment and unless “malice” can be proven, the former Playboy model has no case. Meanwhile McDougal’s legal team argued a tweet from Donald Trump about Tucker Carlson’s book indicates they have a previous relationship and that he would have a reason to "slander" McDougal.
According to reports, the Fox News lawyer said even if that were true, that doesn’t reach the actual malice standard. So far, judge Mary Kay Vyskocol has taken the matter under submission. Ultimately the case will have to decide whether Tucker Carlson is presenting the news or commentary, however, which could have ramifications for other programs of this ilk down the line. Meanwhile the lawsuit has had no effect on Tucker Carlson’s popularity on the airwaves. The Fox news program was the first place finisher last week, averaging four million total viewers. He’s the most watched personality in the cable news cycle followed by Hannity, which averaged 3.9 million viewers an episode. The Ingraham Angle came in third during the week of June 8 to June 14.
Karen McDougal had also sued American Median Inc., who owns the National Enquirer, so she could talk about the affair back in 2018. Tucker Carlson has dealt with losing advertisers recently due to comments made about the Black Lives Matter movement, with outlets like T-Mobile and the Walt Disney Company pulling out.