Two House Democrats on Monday sent letters to a dozen cable, satellite and video streaming companies, pressing them to drop Fox News, One America News Network (OAN) and Newsmax from their services accusing the right-leaning news networks of serving "misinformation" around 2020 US Presidential Election. Representatives Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerny, both of whom represent California and sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent the letters to these companies.
This once again reflects the continued anger in Congress about the January 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump and the key role played by conservative news outlets in spreading misinformation that fuelled the riot.
Demanding Stern Action
The letters were sent to a large number of companies that include Amazon, Hulu Google-parent Alphabet, AT&T, Verizon, Roku, Apple, Comcast, Charter Communications, DISH and Altice among others. In the letter, Eshoo and McNerney have claimed that these networks worked as "misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm."
The lawmakers raise concern around the way these channels handled the November presidential election and supported Trump's false claims of victory that led to the Capitol riot, as well as the pandemic. "Misinformation on TV has led to our current polluted information environment that radicalizes individuals to commit seditious acts and rejects public health best practices, among other issues in our public discourse," they wrote in the letters.
However, the lawmakers didn't hold Fox News, OAN and Newsmax as the only channels to be responsible for this. They have also accused the service providers urging them to take immediate action by dropping these channels from their services. They added that "to our knowledge, the cable, satellite, and over-the-top companies that disseminate these media outlets to American viewers have done nothing in response to the misinformation aired by these outlets."
Feeling the Heat
The 12 companies where the letters were sent didn't immediately reply. However, Fox andNewsmax quickly expressed alarm about the Democrats' efforts to pull down the news networks. Fox News Media said in a statement on Monday that for "individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent."
On the night of the election, Fox News was the first to call Arizona for Joe Biden, and declared him the winner later in the week. Following that the network came under criticism from Donald Trump, who attacked Fox News and encouraged his followers to turn to Newsmax and OAN.
Newsmax said in a statement that "the House Democrats' attack on free speech and basic First Amendment rights should send chills down the spines of all Americans." OAN hasn't yet commented on this.
Lawmakers in recent times have mostly targeted social media companies for spreading misinformation. However, this time the attack is straight on traditional media companies over the spread of fake news and it needs to be seen what the service providers do now.