Conservative news outlets, accused of election falsehoods, air disclaimers

New York media lawyer Ryan Cummings said disclaimers could help media outlets argue that their hosts and guests were presenting opinions, not news. Under U.S. law, opinion enjoys more legal protection than reporting that purports to assert facts. However, radio and cable news outlets generally don’t provide cues to make the distinction obvious to viewers.

Disclaimers could also help Newsmax and others argue that they were not acting recklessly, said Stanford Law School professor Robert Rabin. Under U.S. law, a false statement about a well-known person or company is deemed defamatory only if it is made with “actual malice” or a reckless disregard for the truth.

Fox, the conservative network with by far the greatest reach, took a different route with its pre-recorded interview titled “Closer Look at Claims About Smartmatic.”

The network first presented the skeptical expert’s views in December, five weeks after it originally aired the false claims about Smartmatic. The segment ran during the same shows on which the false statements originally were made.