So what happens when Roger Ailes–president of Fox News–and his wife, Elizabeth, move into your neighborhood? Why, they buy the 140-year-old local newspaper and turn it into a right wing propaganda organ.
Oh, but that’s not all. They come after anyone they don’t like. The most recent example is siccing their lawyers on village trustee Stephanie Hawkins, who had the temerity to click the “share” button on another user’s Facebook post that the Ailes’s didn’t like.
The New Yorker covers the details.
On March 14, [Peter] Johnson [Ailes’s lawyer and a regular Fox & Friends guest-host] sent Hawkins a threatening letter. He insisted that Hawkins’s “retraction and correction be accompanied by a repudiation of the libelous statements and an apology for the outrageous and patently false statements made against our clients.” If she failed to act, they would sue. “You have intentionally, wrongfully and maliciously defamed and disparaged our clients,” he wrote, and “you will be held to account for all damages which flow therefrom … If our clients are forced to file suit to stop your wrongful conduct, they will also seek an award of attorney fees and litigation expenses.” He stressed that the Aileses “have not, and have no interest in, ‘spying’ on their neighbors,” adding: “Mr. and Mrs. Ailes have not, and have no interest in, ‘manufacturing phony scandals’ in their home town or any other small community in the great United States of America.”
Unlike others in the village, Hawkins hasn’t been intimidated yet.
“I’m not an attorney, but I recognized that there’s a certain standard for a defamation or libel claim and this didn’t meet it. This was a category of protected speech,” she told me. Late last month, she enlisted a legal team that included litigator Steven Hyman, the former president of the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Norman Siegel, the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “I’ve never heard of a newspaper suing for libel before,” Hyman told me. On March 28, Hyman and Siegel sent Johnson a response saying Hawkins had “every right to comment on public interest.” They added: “Sending repeated letters to Ms. Hawkins at various addresses containing the same threats and meritless claims is clearly calculated to try and intimidate and harass Ms. Hawkins and must cease.”
As of April 9, Ailes had yet to back off his threats to sue Hawkins. But a couple of days after the March 18 elections, Dar Williams received a letter from Ailes saying he was letting the matter slide. “Roger wrote this letter. He forgave us as a Christian for the pain we’ve caused his family,” Williams told me. “He said we had lost the election for our candidates with our letter, and that was punishment enough.”
The first thing I think of when I think of Roger Ailes is Christian compassion.