Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has secured the approval of the Paris Council to proceed with a lawsuit against Fox News over its repeated statements about Muslim-dominated “no-go zones” after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The action sets up a scenario virtually unthinkable in the free-press-loving United States of America: A municipality seeking damages from a news outlet for saying bad things about it.
When Hidalgo first dangled the threat of a suit in January, Fox News used mild language in responding to the prospect. “We empathize with the citizens of France as they go through a healing process and return to everyday life. However, we find the Mayor’s comments regarding a lawsuit misplaced,” remarked Michael Clemente, the executive vice president of news at the network.
Now that Hidalgo is proceeding with this absurd bit of posturing, Fox News, through its legal counsel, appears to be elevating the candor: “The decision by the City of Paris to bring legal proceedings against a United States news organization is antithetical to free speech. FOX News will invoke every protection afforded it under all applicable laws.” That statement comes not from Fox News editorial personnel, but from Dori Ann Hanswirth of the law firm Hogan Lovells, which has a location in Paris.
Talk of “no-go zones” spread about the media in the aftermath of the Jan. 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks, as newscasters sought to contextualize the act of Islamic extremism. The chatter about these zones received heavy rotation on Fox News, culminating in an appearance by terrorism analyst Steve Emerson on the show “Justice with Judge Jeanine.” “In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones. There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” Emerson said on the Jan. 10 program. Fox News later issued several apologies and corrections for the no-go zone commentary.