A former Fox News reporter and current congressional staffer is suing his former employer in a wrongful termination lawsuit that alleges the cable news network punished him for interfering with the alleged “stolen election” of 2020 and the network’s resulting “false coverage of the June 6 insurrection.” January” did not stick to the company line.
According to information, Jason Donner previously worked as a reporter and producer for the conservative station on Capitol Hill for over 12 years the 21-page lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
“Something changed at Fox News after the 2020 election,” the complaint states.
One of the first incidents that initiated this alleged change, according to the lawsuit, was that the network was the first to report that then-candidate Joe Biden had beaten then-President Donald Trump in Arizona. Both the 45th president and his supporters were “furious” about the call, the lawsuit says, citing a New York Times report.
“Faced with backlash from Trump supporters, Fox News immediately capitulated to President Trump and his supporters and fired Chris Stirewalt, the on-screen reporter during the Arizona projection,” the filing said. “Similarly, Bill Sammon, the vice president and managing editor of DC who provided editorial oversight of Fox News’ decision to call Joe Biden in Arizona, retired over criticism from network executives over his handling of the network’s election coverage back.”
After the election, Fox continued to lay off significant staff. The lawsuit suggests that at least 20 such firings were the direct result of the Arizona station aptly calling for Biden on election night. The filing also quotes a “senior executive” at Fox who criticized Sammon for not understanding “the impact on the brand and the arrogance of calling the Grand Canyon State that.”
In an email from Rupert Murdoch’s heir Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, the two appeared to be seen discussing how Fox News viewers “experienced the five stages of grief” following Trump’s loss and that the Call in Arizona “was harmful.” The channel’s CEO outlined that the way forward is to “highlight our stars and plant flags so viewers know we hear them and respect them.”
According to the lawsuit, the younger Murdoch and Scott then pondered the “process” of “rebuilding” their relationship with viewers.
“In short, Fox News faced a decline in ratings after the election because of its endorsement of Arizona for Joe Biden and the network’s initial reluctance to support President Trump’s false claims of voter fraud,” the complaint continues. “To win back viewership and reaffirm its loyalty to President Trump, Fox management purged its news division and those reporters who spoke out against claims of election fraud.”
The filing states that many journalists within Fox repeatedly questioned this seemingly new editorial direction. Chief among the employee complaints were false claims made by Tucker Carlson about the origins of the Jan. 6 attack. These claims resulted in a “toxic” work environment, the lawsuit says.
“Fox News’ reporting focused on the baseless stolen election conspiracy spread by President Trump’s supporters,” the lawsuit continues. “[R]E-porters were under pressure from above to push the ‘voter fraud allegations.’
When on-screen personalities accurately reported Trump campaign incidents alleging fraud — and noted the absence of such evidence — they were reprimanded by their superiors, the lawsuit says.
The filing goes on to mention several complaints filed by well-known Fox hosts who went against the grain over the network’s new alleged editorial line on the 2020 election results and the pro-Trump attack on the U.S. Capitol complex. The expression of false opinions by these big stars would also be punished, the lawsuit says.
“But the purge of the news division was not limited to the widely recognized on-screen reporters,” the lawsuit says. “This also included the reporters on site, such as Mr. Donner.”
At one point, while reporting on the Trump legal team’s baseless fraud allegations, Donner tweeted about former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s dueling claims in and out of court.
“At this press conference, Rudy Giuliani keeps claiming election fraud in Philadelphia, but he said this in a Pennsylvania court: ‘This is not a case of fraud,'” the tweet said.
At this press conference, Rudy Giuliani continues to claim election fraud in Philadelphia, but he said this in a Pennsylvania court: “This is not a case of fraud.”
— Jason Donner (@jason_donner) November 19, 2020
The comparison of these two factual statements was allegedly interpreted as an opinion by Donner’s supervisor and “direct boss” Anita Siegfriedt, the lawsuit says.
“Siegfriedt reprimanded Donner for the tweet and stated that Donner was not permitted to tweet his ‘opinions,'” the lawsuit says. Donner responded that this was not an opinion, but rather facts based on what Giuliani said at the press conference and in a lawsuit. Siegfriedt explained that she would “give it up,” but that Donner would have to be careful if it continued.”
Donner claims in his lawsuit that he was also outspoken about how the network covered the Jan. 6 attack.
The now-former reporter was on Capitol Hill that day, the lawsuit says, and sought refuge when the threat of violence became clear.
“Fox News reported that the insurgents were ‘peaceful,'” the filing said. “When Donner heard Fox News’ false reporting of the Capitol insurrection, he called the Fox News control room and said, ‘I’m your Capitol Hill producer at the Capitol where tear gas is being fired on the second floor in the Ohio.’ Clock corridor, rioters storm the building, reports of shots fired in front of the House of Representatives. I never want to hear any of that damn stuff on our show again because you’re going to kill us all.'”
Donner’s lawsuit alleges that Fox’s editorial policies increasingly relied on right-wing opinion pieces. Meanwhile, Carlson began making increasingly conspiratorial and false accusations on his hugely popular primetime show – which reportedly prompted Fox’s DC bureau chief Bryan Boughton to say that “they couldn’t do anything because Tucker was bigger than the network.” became and got out of control.” . The executives couldn’t stop him.”
All the while, Donner claims, he bristled, sometimes with his superiors and sometimes with Fox News’ human resources department, about the network’s supposed new direction, the lawsuit says.
In late September 2022, Donner said he called in sick to recover from the COVID-19 vaccination. The next day, still sick but returning to work, Boughton told Donner he had been fired “for being late for work and not showing up for work,” the lawsuit says.
“This was a sham firing based on Donner’s political views and affiliations, his refusal to report false information about the 2020 election and January 6, and his engagement in protected activities,” the lawsuit says. “Ultimately, Fox News wanted to purge the news division of any employees who would not comply with the directive to only report information that appeased Trump supporters and former President Trump.”
The lawsuit names Fox News as a defendant and asserts five separate causes of action and seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, equitable relief, interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.
Donner currently works as a senior communications advisor for Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.
Law&Crime reached out to Fox News for comment on this story, but there was no immediate response at the time of publication.
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