Monday, September 17

WaPo Wag, Florida Court Say Fox News Can "Misinform Our Society"

The popular Canadian documentary The Corporation featured a censored news reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson and their five-year legal battle in Florida over a story linking milk to cancer. Watch the 7:30-minute YouTube segment below.

Consider this mid-week newsbyte, cast to the bottom of mainstream media's throwaway new dregs bin; it's comes to us courtesty of the Washington Post and CNN on the network's Resident Fascist Glenn Beck's program.

In this 1-minute exchange, WaPo print lackey Howard Kutze avers the kettle's right to blacken the news at its pleasure. The following narrative accompanies the clip:
Wednesday [12 September], during an appearance on Glenn Beck’s CNN Headline News show, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz said that Fox News is “entitled” to be “a cheerleader for the Bush administration” that is “misinforming our society.” Kurtz’s comments came in the context of dismissing the criticisms of MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, who routinely mocks the cable news network.
You may recall a poll by the University of Maryland in October 2003--seven months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq--revealed that regular Fox News consumers were the most misinformed about erroneous White House claims that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons that posed a threat to the U.S. and allies, and had aided the 9/11 al-Queada hijackers.

However, Kurtz is, sadly, correct; Fox is indeed "entitled" to distort the news any way it wishes. An appeals court in First Brother Jeb Bush country ruled in 2003 the network had the right to do just that.

Got Milk?

In 1998, Fox News lawyers vetted a news story for broacast by veteran reporters Jane Akre and Steven Wilson on Tampa affilate WTVT-13 Fox TV. The husband-and-wife team had found that Flordia's milk supply, heavily laced since 1993 with the synthetic bovine growth hormone (BGH) farmers inject into cows to bolster their productivity, is linked to cancer.

When agriculture giant Monsanto, the manufacturer of BGH, learned about Fox's impending story, company lawyers threatened the network with a lawsuit; WTVT opted to pull it.

Confident their research was solid, Akre and Wilson resisted rewriting their story to Fox lawyers' 83 different verisons of their original story; they subsequently were fired by the Tampa affiliate. They then filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Fox in April 1998, claiming they were pressured by network officials to dilute their facts to the point that BHG's danger to consumers was not at all apparent.

To promote their story and lawsuit, the couple put up the website, where they posted this excerpt:
...No labeling law in Florida requires milk producers to tell consumers when their milk or other dairy products come from cows treated with the controversial hormone. In fact, Monsanto has fought efforts by dairies that do not use the product from saying so on their labels. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, which buys only from farmers who do not inject their cows with BGH, just won a legal victory in Illinois to allow them to label their products artificial-BGH-free.

In Wisconsin, Vermont, and elsewhere, consumers have demanded grocers stop carrying BGH milk or at least give shoppers a choice at the dairy case.

"This is precisely what this is all about," said reporter Akre. "Yes, I’m an investigative reporter but I’m also a mother. I and every other mother and consumer deserve to hear all that is known about what I pour on my daughter’s cereal every morning. Only then can any of us decide for ourselves if there is any risk and whether it rises to a level we are willing to take."
Three lower-court juries ruled in favor of Akre and Wilson. But Robert Murdoch's deep-pocketed Fox News Network appealed those judgments. In 2003, Fox preservered in Hillsboro County, Florida's Second Court of Appeal, the Honorable Judge Ralph Steinberg presiding.

After a five-week trial and six hours of deliberation which ended August 18, 2000, a Florida state court jury unanimously determined that Fox "acted intentionally and deliberately to falsify or distort the plaintiffs' news reporting on BGH." In that decision, the jury also found that Jane's threat to blow the whistle on Fox's misconduct to the FCC was the sole reason for the termination... and the jury awarded $425,000 in damages which makes her eligible to apply for reimbursement for all court costs, expenses and legal fees.

Fox appealed and prevailed February 14, 2003 when an appeals court issued a ruling reversing the jury, accepting a defense argument that had been rejected by three other judges on at least six separate occasions.
Steinberg's six-page ruling (pdf) "reversed and remanded" a lower court's decision that had awarded the couple $425,000 in damages on a technicality:
....Because the FCC’s news distortion policy is not a “law, rule, or regulation”under section 448.102, Akre has failed to state a claim under the whistle-blower's statute. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment in her favor and remand for entry of a judgment in favor of WTVT. (page 6)
Below is YouTube's tenth of 14 segments the videop service has up of The Corporation documentary. While the piece last 11 minutes, Akre and Wilson's story is the first 7.5 minutes of the clip.

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