A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a defamation suit brought against Fox News by former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who alleged having an affair with Donald Trump before he became president.
Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil ruled against McDougal on grounds that Tucker Carlson regularly engages in “rhetorical hyperbole” and “opinion commentary” — essentially arguing that Carlson’s comments on the show cannot be genuinely considered hard, factual news.
“The statements are rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate, and, as such, are not actionable as defamation,” Vyskocil wrote.
In reaching her decision, Vyskocil borrowed in part from an argument “persuasively” made by Fox News in Carlson’s defense, saying that the “general tenor” of Carlson’s program suggests to viewers that Carlson is “engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘nonliteral commentary.’”
“Given Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’” about the Fox News host’s claims, the judge added.
McDougal disputed Carlson’s effort to represent opinion as fact in an email to the Associate Press, saying,”I believe reporting something you know is a lie as ‘news’ or ‘undisputed facts’ is the very definition of malicious.”
Fox News meanwhile hailed the decision — which largely undermines the factual integrity of its primetime host — as a victory for “defenders of the First Amendment.”
The news network said in a statement: “Karen McDougal’s lawsuit attempted to silence spirited opinion commentary on matters of public concern. The court today held that the First Amendment plainly prohibits such efforts to stifle free speech.”