A former Fox News Capitol Hill reporter and producer sued the network, claiming that he was wrongfully terminated for speaking out about the network’s false coverage of the 2020 presidential election and the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
In a lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court, Jason Donner alleged that he was fired after complaining, in writing, to Fox News’ human resources department and to his supervisor, NuNu Japaridze. In the complaint, sent to them on May 24, 2022, Donner wrote that “Fox News has not supported its journalists since the January 6th attack on the Capitol. By allowing highly paid hosts and contributors to make factually false statements about that day is not only demoralizing but creates a hostile work environment. I barely watch our programming or read our website anymore because it’s hard to stomach these untruths being aired and written.” Donner had previously complained to supervisors about the Capitol siege, including when Tucker Carlson aired his documentary Patriot Purge, which made the claim that the attack on the Capitol was a false flag operation.
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In the lawsuit, Donner’s attorneys wrote that in August, 2022, he met with HR for more than two hours over Zoom, and “complained about the false reporting by Tucker Carlson and the toxic environment
it breeds at Fox News, as well as the lack of support from the network for reporters.”
The month after that meeting, Donner called in sick because he was recovering from a Covid vaccine he had received. Japaridze called him the next day and “accused Donner of being irresponsible and challenged Donner’s work ethic, despite the fact that Donner worked past 9pm three nights in
the preceding week while ill from the COVID vaccine,” according to the lawsuit. She then hung up on him, according to the suit.
The next day, Donner was told that he was fired “because he was late for work and did not show up for work (presumably referring to September 26, 2022 when Donner called in sick). Donner asked for examples, and [D.C. bureau chief Bryan] Boughton said, ‘we don’t need any.'”
His attorneys said that his firing was a pretext based on his political views and affiliation, and because he refused to report false information about the 2020 election and about January 6th.
“Ultimately, Fox News wanted to purge the news division of any staff that would not get in line with the directive to only report information that appease the Trump supporters and former President Trump,” the lawsuit claimed.
The Daily Beast first reported on Donner’s lawsuit, which came to light as Fox News attorneys sought to move the litigation to federal court in D.C.
A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Donner now works as senior adviser to Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
His lawsuit claims wrongful termination, as well as discrimination and retaliation under the D.C. Human Rights Act.
The lawsuit referenced Dominion Voting Systems’ litigation against the network, which was ultimately settled in April for $787.5 million.
One revelation from the Dominion lawsuit was what happened to Kristin Fisher, then a Fox News White House correspondent, after she fact checked a November, 2020, press conference given by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, in which they made wild and unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. Fisher was told that she needed to do a better job of “respecting our audience.”
Donner’s attorneys wrote that he attended the Giuliani-Powell press conference, and tweeted, “At this press conference, Rudy Giuliani keeps claiming voter fraud in Philadelphia, but he said this to a Pennsylvania court: ‘This is not a fraud case.'”
Later that day, according to the lawsuit, Donner’s direct boss then, Anita Siegfriedt, told him that he was “not permitted to tweet his ‘opinions.'”
“This was unlike Siegfriedt as she always praised Donner’s work and never took issue with Donner’s reporting prior to this,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also recounted Donner’s experience at the Capitol on January 6th. He was in the Fox News booth above the Senate-Radio TV Gallery Studio. When the mob breached the Capitol barricades, he and others took refuge in the news booths. But the lawsuit stated that while “the U.S. Capitol was starting to be attacked, Fox News reported that the insurrectionists were ‘peaceful.’ Later that day, Martha MacCallum of Fox News stated during a live Fox News feed about these people, ‘When you hear their voices, you can understand why they were severely disappointed.’ This statement was made near the same time shots were fired outside the House Floor, tear gas deployed in the Ohio Clock Corridor, and rioters were present in the Senate Chamber.”
According to the lawsuit, when Donner heard that reporting, he called the Fox News control room and said, “I’m your Capitol Hill Producer inside the Capitol where tear gas is going off on the second floor in the Ohio Clock corridor, rioters are storming the building, reports of shots fired outside the House Chamber. I don’t want to hear any of this fucking shit on our air ever again because you’re gonna get us all killed.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as other relief.
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