Nina Jankowicz is back. After a public outcry forced the Biden Administration to kill its infamous Disinformation Government Board, Jankowicz became famous or infamous as the head of the board. She became an instant Internet sensation due to a musical number in which she sang “You can just call me the Mary Poppins of disinformation” in a TikTok parody of the song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” After her brief stint in the Biden Administration, Jankowicz reportedly registered as a foreign agent with an British group to continue her disinformation work. She is now reinventing herself as the Mary Poppins of defamation and ostensibly seeking $100,000 to sue Fox News for defamation.
Jankowicz posted a five-minute video to her Twitter account along with a GoFundMe page. This video is strictly legal, not musical. According to the GoFundMe page, she is seeking to raise $100,000.
The production elements of her latest video are again top notch, but her facts are a bit more sketchy.
Jankowicz portrays herself as a defender of free speech who opposed efforts to censor viewpoints. As one of her critics, I strongly contest that self-portrayal. Indeed, one might even call it “disinformation.”
When she was appointed the executive director of the Disinformation Governance Board in April 2022, she was tasked with combating “disinformation” on subjects ranging from the U.S. southern border to other forms of disinformation.
While Jankowicz objects to the “overly personalized, false, and incendiary coverage of me,” it is only the false part that is actionable. Coverage is allowed to be “personalized” and even “incendiary” so long as it is true or protected opinion.
She was previously criticized for allegedly spreading disinformation and advocating censorship,
Jankowicz previously argued that Congress should create new laws to block mockery of women online by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and including “provisions against online gender-based harassment.”
Jankowicz testified before the British House of Parliament about “gender misinformation” being a “national security concern” and a threat to democracy requiring government censorship.
She demanded that both tech companies and government should work together using “creativity and technological prowess to make a pariah of online misogyny.”
On the Hunter Biden laptop, Jankowicz pushed the false narrative that it was a false story and that “we should view it as a Trump campaign product.” She continued to spread that disinformation, including tweeting a link to a news article that she said cast “yet more doubt on the provenance of the NY Post’s Hunter Biden story.” In another tweet, she added “not to mention that the emails don’t need to be altered to be part of an influence campaign. Voters deserve that context, not a [fairy] tale about a laptop repair shop.”
She even cited the author of the infamous Steele Dossier as a guide for how to deal with disinformation. In August 2020, Jankowicz tweeted “Listened to this last night – Chris Steele (yes THAT Chris Steele) provides some great historical context about the evolution of disinfo. Worth a listen.” The Steele Dossier was viewed by American intelligence as relying on a suspected Russian agent as a source. These officials warned that it was itself used as a possible Russian disinformation vehicle.
She also joined the panic over the Musk threat to reintroduce free speech values to Twitter. In an interview on NPR, she stated “I shudder to think about if free speech absolutists were taking over more platforms, what that would look like for the marginalized communities.”
Jankowicz insists that the network’s statements about her were “easily disproven by a few minutes of research.” I do not know the full extent of Fox comments that she is referencing but the clips show protected opinion. People are allowed to view her “Disinformation Governance Board” as . . . well . . . a board seeking to govern disinformation. Regardless of whether it had direct authority to censor, it was clearly an effort to coordinate efforts to combat disinformation.
We are only now learning how extensive this system of disinformation measures may be. In my column in the Hill this weekend, I discuss yet another possible federally funded effort to target citizens and others for possible censorship. I noted that the Biden administration played us for chumps in the Board controversy. As we celebrated the demise of the infamous Disinformation Governing Board, the Biden administration never disclosed a larger censorship effort. That includes a recently disclosed back channel to Twitter where dozens of FBI agents tagged citizens for censorship. I recently testified on that new evidence.
Even if Jankowicz is seriously thinking of suing Fox News, she faces considerable factual and legal challenges. Under New York Times v. Sullivan. the Supreme Court crafted the actual malice standard that required public officials to shoulder the higher burden of proving defamation. Under that standard, an official would have to show either actual knowledge of its falsity or a reckless disregard of the truth. The same standard applies to public figures. Jankowicz was a public official when these comments began and she is now a public figure.
Ironically, this is precisely the environment in which the opinion was written and she is precisely the type of plaintiff that the opinion was meant to deter. The Court was seeking to protect the media from efforts to deter coverage and commentary through the threat of civil lawsuits. The Supreme Court ruled that tort law could not be used to overcome First Amendment protections for free speech or the free press. The Court sought to create “breathing space” for the media by articulating that standard that now applies to both public officials and public figures.
In this case, there were good-faith reasons for denouncing the work of this Board and the views of Jankowicz. Even when speakers have used terms like “blackmail” to denounce public figures, the Court has barred defamation lawsuits. For example, the Court dealt with such heated rhetoric in Greenbelt Cooperative Publishing Association v. Bresler, 398 U.S. 6 (1970), in which a newspaper was sued for using the word “blackmail” in connection to a real estate developer who was negotiating with the Greenbelt City Council to obtain zoning variances. The Court applied the actual malice standard and noted:
It is simply impossible to believe that a reader who reached the word “blackmail” in either article would not have understood exactly what was meant: It was Bresler’s public and wholly legal negotiating proposals that were being criticized. No reader could have thought that either the speakers at the meetings or the newspaper articles reporting their words were charging Bresler with the commission of a criminal offense. On the contrary, even the most careless reader must have perceived that the word was no more than rhetorical hyperbole, a vigorous epithet used by those who considered Bresler’s negotiating position extremely unreasonable.
The First Amendment limits the scope of defamation in some cases. As one court noted, “‘rhetorical hyperbole,’ ‘vigorous epithet[s],’ ‘lusty and imaginative expressions[s] of . . . contempt,’ and language used ‘in a loose, figurative sense’ have all been accorded constitutional protection.” Ferlauto v. Hamsher 74 Cal.App.4th 1394, 1401 (1999)
Moreover, what constitutes an opinion as opposed to a factual claim is generally left to a jury: “some statements are ambiguous and cannot be characterized as factual or nonfactual as a matter of law. ‘In these circumstances, it is for the jury to determine whether an ordinary reader would have understood the article as a factual assertion…’” Kahn v. Bower, 232 Cal.App.3d 1599, 1608 (1991).
In Wilkow v. Forbes, Inc., 241 F.3d 552 (7th Cir. 2001), opinion prevailed as a defense. In that case, a journalist with Forbes was sued for harsh characterizations of a lawyer and his practice. Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote that “although the article drips with disapproval of Wilkow’s (and the judges’) conduct, an author’s opinion about business ethics isn’t defamatory under Illinois law.”
Jankowicz’s self-portrayal as a defender of free speech is not shared by many of us in the free speech community. She is one of the leading advocates for disinformation regulations and de facto censorship. Moreover, the board was rightfully denounced as part of this insidious effort and even the Biden Administration abandoned it.
In the end, it is not clear how $100,000 could even fund the initial stage of a lawsuit against Fox. There is no guarantee that it would be used for that purpose. On her GoFundMe page, Jankowicz lists other uses for the money including “security” and “protecting me and my family.” She also lists “current costs” as including lawsuits where she is a defendant or investigations calling her as a witness. However, the video pitch only mentions using the money to sue Fox News, which will resonate more readily with many potential donors.
If she were to launch a defamation action, her greatest challenge is not the money but the governing case law. Jankowicz faces considerable tort and constitutional headwinds in seeking to sue over criticism of her career and views.
N.B.: For full disclosure, I appear on Fox as a legal analyst but my views on this blog are neither connected to nor approved by Fox or any of my other associated media companies as a commentator or columnist. I will repost columns that appear in newspapers or outlets.
199 thoughts on “The Mary Poppins of Defamation? Nina Jankowicz Solicits Funds to Sue Fox News”
If there were any chance of winning the case, there would be no need to raise money. Lawyers take winnable cases like this all the time in exchange for a cut of the settlement. If she has to pay for a lawyer, that means the lawyers don’t see it as a winnable case.
I don’t know what Anonymous is thinking. He posts a portion of the transcript to prove a point but non-specific conjecture and statements attached to the word possible are not proof. Can he possibly be that ignorant of the law that he truly doesn’t understand?
Establishment media outlets, including NPR and The Washington Post, have been forced to issue major retractions in recent days, correcting misreporting on matters ranging from FBI whistleblowers to how President Joe Biden’s son Beau Biden died.
NPR was forced to issue a correction Saturday to clarify that Beau Biden died from brain cancer in 2015, not from injuries he received while stationed with the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, as stated in the original report.
The public outlet is not the only source to misrepresent Beau Biden’s death. The president himself has previously claimed that his late son died in Iraq, not from cancer.
NPR also walked back a claim in an article last month headlined “Speaker McCarthy leads first border trip in his new role. Critics call it a photo op.” The piece inaccurately reported that no Democrats attended a hearing at a Texas border town, bolstering critics’ claims that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans were using the border visit to generate media coverage.
“In fact, some Democrats attended,” NPR later clarified.
The New York Times, the Washington Post and Rolling Stone all issued corrections to articles over the weekend about a Democrat House Judiciary Committee report criticizing Republican whistleblowers and GOP-led House investigations.
The Times admitted Saturday it had incorrectly stated that FBI whistleblower Stephen Friend worked for the Center for Renewing America, largely funded by former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows’ Conservative Partnership Institute, in an article headlined “G.O.P. Witnesses, Paid by Trump Ally, Embraced Jan. 6 Conspiracy Theories.” The Times issued a correction stating: “The center is affiliated with the institute and sustained mostly by donations; it is not largely funded by the institute.”
Rolling Stone corrected an inaccurate claim regarding former FBI analyst George Hill, whose attorney Jason Foster says retired from the agency on “good terms.”
Rolling Stone reported originally that Hill’s FBI security clearance had been “revoked” when in fact it was in good standing. The magazine said it mistook Hill for another whistleblower, Steve Friend, whose clearance had been suspended for a review but not revoked either.
“This story has been corrected to reflect that Steven Friend’s security clearance was suspended and George Hill retired of his own volition,” Rolling Stone stated.
“Obviously, they couldn’t keep the details of George Hill’s and [Stephen Friend’s] cases straight,” Foster tweeted. “So, they just blended them together with some fiction out of thin air about how Hill had to retire because his clearance was revoked and he couldn’t find work anymore.”
Rolling Stone has been called out before for media ethics issues.
In November 2014, the magazine published an article titled “A Rape on Campus” claiming that a University of Virginia student was the victim of a fraternity gang rape. The story was retracted in April 2015, and the outlet lost a defamation lawsuit brough by a university official and settled other cases with the fraternity and some of its members.
The Columbia Journalism Review said at the time that “Rolling Stone needs a transparency lesson” and the outlet “damaged the credibility of an important movement” bringing attention to sexual assault.
The Washington Post, which still uses the slogan “Democracy Dies in the Darkness,” has issued an alarming number of corrections this year alone to stories dealing with conservatives.
Most recently, the outlet issued a correction to a Friday article headlined “Democrats challenge credibility of GOP witnesses who embrace false Jan. 6 claims,” stating: “An earlier version of this article erroneously said former FBI official Stephen Friend had not reported to a supervisor one of his concerns related to the use of a SWAT team in arrests related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riots. He said he did tell the supervisor, but he did not mention it in a written declaration.”
Previously, the Post issued an undated correction to a 2020 article headlined “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus fringe theory that scientists have disputed,” which criticized the Arkansas Republican senator for speculating that COVID-19 originated from a Chinese lab leak. The theory has since been found credible by the Energy Department and the FBI, and the Post added to its article: “The term ‘debunked’ and The Post’s use of ‘conspiracy theory’ have been removed because, then as now, there was no determination about the origins of the virus.”
In January, the Post was forced to issue a correction to a story about conservative activist Chris Rufo, who said the paper published “flat-out lies” in an article headlined “DeSantis moves to turn a progressive Fla. college into a conservative one.”
“A previous version of this story called Christopher Rufo a Republican activist who denies the existence of systemic racism,” the Post wrote in a correction. “He is a conservative activist who has said American law is not currently discriminating against racial minorities.”
The recent corrections from these outlets follow several high-profile media corrections regarding claims about COVID-19 and the since-disproven Steele dossier alleging then-candidate Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.
OT (Covid) – The Daily Mail is reporting today that emails show that Anthony Fauci commissioned and edited a report from Dr. Kristian Aandersen debunking the lab leak theory, and then relied upon that report to supress discussion of the lab leak theory, withoiut revealing his role in creating the report. https://www.dailymail.co.uk /news/article-11824905/Emails-Dr-Fauci-commissioned-February-2020-paper-disprove-COVID-leaked-Wuhan-lab.html
Emails like this have been available for a very long time. I don’t think there is anything new here. Fauci helped launch a cover up of the potential lab leak from the time of his conference call on February 1.
Checked back, and wow – did NOT expect this to be the post to get comment bombed today, but I guess the DNC protect their good soldiers. They really do think we are very, very stupid. The inverse is true and false simultaneously.
Any association between this woman and ‘truth’ is an affront even to other *lies* that are simply better crafted. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic, and seriously: the Taylor Lorenz/KJP/Vacation Pete victim crap is so very tired. At least in theory people voted for Pete, whereas this chick is basically a fascist deputy.
The DNC trolls need to pass the hat between their commenting on here, and pitch in to support their disinformation CC
Pzar. Funds raised thus far for Nina “maryfrickenpoppins” Jankovitch thus far is embarrassing. What say you Svelaz, Dennis, Gigi (but I repeat myself)?
$13,300 raised of $100,000 goal
Why does she have to raise money to sue? Given her notoriety, there should be any number of plaintiff’s lawyers falling all over themselves to represent her on a contingency-fee basis. That is, unless her defamation claim is frivolous . . . which maybe is the reason she has to raise money. I hope she succeeds in raising money so that her left-wing dweeb supporters end up funding a losing cause.
Jankowicz portrays herself as a defender of free speech who opposed efforts to censor viewpoints.
Hahahahah! I mean just laugh-out-loud hilarious! But then again she is, after all, one of the witches who changed, “Fair is foul, foul is fair.” (Macbeth Act 1, scene 1)
As the Professor points out, the money can be used for many other purposes. The headlined possible Fox suit may be just a way of raising money that she will use for other things. So, it could be a scam.
It could be. She is, after all, a fraud.
Jonathan: To recap the news this week, as I often do, to cover news you choose not to discuss. USAToday has an interesting story (3/1/230 about a claim that Hunter Biden paid his dad nearly $50K per month to rent the Delaware Biden family home. Smells of corruption. Right? The claim originated with right-wing blogger Carl Hibie. It was picked up by Tucker Carlson who ran with the story on his Fox show: “Did Hunter Biden actually buy his father’s home in Delaware?…On the form Hunter Biden claims he is paying nearly $50,000 a month in housing costs”. Right-wing GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert also peddled the story. USAToday rates the story “False”.
It turns out Hunter Biden did make rental payments of $50K, not to his dad, but to the House of Sweden in DC for office space. Among the docs found at the Biden Delaware house was a form showing the payments and Hunter listing the the home as his “residence”. Fox host Carlson and others conflated the story as another example of laundering money for dad. The story was completely false.
So, it appears this is another nail in the coffin for conspiracy theories by you an others claiming a “vast corruption scandal” by the Biden family. I’m sure, however, you will keep trying. Good luck with that one.
Dennis McIntyre, it continues the pattern of lying and pushing misinformation or just pure journalistic failure at verifying a story. It’s a wonder how Turley can keep ignoring the facts regarding Fox News.
Get a room you two.
The form is not dispositive. Hunter paid the House of Sweden $49,910 PER QUARTER. The form says the rent was for $49,910 PER MONTH. The form doesn’t list the renter, and no direct, verifiable link between the House of Sweden and the form has been revealed.
I give the USA Today two Pinocchios for this sloppy fact checking. The fact is that both sides have jumped to conclusions about to whom and what the form applies. I wouldn’t be surprised if the form applied to the House of Sweden, but I can’t say that definitively and neither can you.
Diogenes, you just confirmed that it was a lie that Hunter Biden was paying his father.
Svelaz – I don’t know if you missed it, but in his emails, Hunter says that he was paying “all his money” to his father. This may be an exageration, but there is no reason to disbelieve that some part of Hunter’s “income” was being funneled to Joe. Remember the reference to “10% for the big guy.” It also appears that there were joint bank accounts held by the father and son.
edward, produce said emails and you have an argument. Otherwise, I call false claim. You offer a lot of allegations without evidence.
Svelaz – here is one of many stories on this subject: https://nypost.com/2022/04/09/hunter-biden-frequently-covered-family-expenses-texts-reveal/,
Edward, those email have nothing to do with what you’re implying. Payments for house repairs and maintenance are not illegal. Transferring $25,000 from a joint account to Hunter Biden are not illegal either. Also those actions were made when President Biden was not in office or when he was a senator. Still nothing illegal about it. Nice try though.
“Diogenes, you just confirmed that it was a lie that Hunter Biden was paying his father.”
No, Svelaz, I didn’t do that. I suggested it was a matter of opinion.
Svelaz: Right on brother! But notice one thing about the far-right of this blog. They are “true believers”. They hang on Turley’s every word and believe everything they see on Fox. Neither you nor I will convince them otherwise–not even the facts will change their minds. But facts are important and you and I will continue to present them–even though we should know they won’t change anyone’s mind on this blog. But it is a challenge I relish–just pointing out the emptiness of much of the thinking on this blog!
Dennis McIntyre, how true. I agree there are those that will never learn and will never accept that their narrative is all based on a lie. It’s more important to keep believing the lie than to accept the embarrassment of being led for fools by Trump and his enablers. Nobody likes to admit they’ve been had. Especially when they know, but still prefer denial.
Svelaz – You’re talking about the Trump Putin collusion hoax, aren’t you? That is the biggest narrative based on a lie in the history of the country. I believe you and Dennis are true believers in that.
Dennis – So you admit that Hunter was residing at the home when there were classified documents there, not properly stored or guarded.
edwardmahl: The USAToday article speaks for itself. I refuse to speculate as to whether Hunter had access to any of the classified docs stored at the Biden home. The Special Counsel investigating the Biden case will no doubt issue a report as to what was there and who had access to it. Let’s wait for that report before engaging in wild speculation.
In your response to Svelaz you link to a NY Post article. All it shows is that Hunter paid for some repair and other expenses while living at the Delaware residence. Expenses that his dad apparently reimbursed. Does this provide support for Turley’s claim there was some vast conspiracy and corruption scandal by the Biden family? Nope. If you continue to rely solely on Turley’s column that draw from NY Post articles (a tabloid owned by Murdock) you are on a fool’s errand. It looks like you are only looking for confirmation bias–not objective facts. If you worked for any other news organization and wrote an article based only on Turley columns and NY Post articles a fact checker and your editor would laugh you out of the newsroom!
In your response to Svelaz you cite the the NY Post article as “one of many stories on this subject”. Please cite the other stories so we can discuss further.
Why don’t you write your own blog if you are not happy with the topics Turley picks?
After reding the comments of Svelaz and Dennis McIntyre, one phrase keeps popping in my head:
Make Orwell Fiction Again!
Maynard G. Krebs. I won’t speak for Svelaz. He does a fine job on his own. As for me, I deal in FACTS. Unfortunately. you thrive on conspiracy theories that have no foundation in facts. These conspiracy theories swirl around your brain making it impossible for you to see straight. Any time you come up with actual facts to contradict anything I say in my comments please come back and we’ll discuss. I won’t hold my breath because you are the one who deals in Orwellian faction!
“As for me, I deal in FACTS.”
Which is a lie upon a lie.
As is typical with the Left, you deal in *selective* facts. You trumpet those that satisfy a desire or end. You ignore those facts that thwart a desire. (The Left’s “narratives” about Musk and pre-Musk Twitter censorship is but one example.)
That is not fact-based reasoning. That is rationalization.
As for me, I deal in FACTS,
Your lies are so numerous I just stopped pointing them out. Like most others, it is best to ignore ignorant trolls.
She is like Taylor Lorenz: spoiled, rotten, coddled, entitled white leftist who could not make it through life without someone paving their golden road. They are victims in their own small cultist minds who demand interventions from the state to rescue their feeble, ignorant and dangerous goals
How the Biden administration let right-wing attacks derail its disinformation efforts
A ‘pause’ of the Department of Homeland Security’s newly created board comes after its head, Nina Jankowicz, was the victim of coordinated online attacks as the administration struggled to respond
By Taylor Lorenz
May 18, 2022
I don’t want to speak for Fox News, but I would think that their response would be “Bring it on, sweetie!”
In a dispute between Nina Jankowicz and Fox “News” there are no good guys — no contestant to be rooted for by anyone with a sense of morality (or a sense of smell), since both parties stink of corruption and dishonesty.
On the other hand, Jankowicz is probably no more corrupt than most public officials and Fox is no more and no less corrupt than CNN, MSNBC, the NY Times, the WaPo, or the rest of the GARBAGE media that anyone with a functioning nose can smell from several thousand miles away.
Under these circumstances, it seems a shame that the outcome of the dispute can’t be lawfully decided by a duel — something with an ending similar to the finale of Hamlet. It would save a lot of money and free up the courts to handle cases where both parties aren’t absolute stinking slime.
Jonathan: In your diatribe against Nina Jankowicz you claim whatever Fox says about her is “protected opinion” under NY v Sullivan. I watched a few snippets of Fox’s coverage of Jankowicz. Various hosts called her “unhinged”, a “far-left lunatic”, “liar” and “insane”. As a result she has received numerous death threats. Time will tell whether she can raise enough to finance her litigation against Fox. But if the Dominion litigation is any guide it may not be too difficult to prove Fox intentionally lied about Jankowicz.
What caught my attention was the “NB” at the end of your column. This is the first time I’ve seen a disclaimer in which you say “my views on this blog are neither connected to nor approved by Fox or any of my other associated media companies as a commentator or columnist”. Why the necessity of this disclaimer and your attempt to distance yourself from Fox? I think it is because you are keenly aware of the public perception of your employment by Fox and that your views almost always reflect those of Fox. Your columns often cite articles in the NY Post–a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdock. That’s why some of us on this blog think you are actually a paid propogandist of Fox and your job is to provide an echo chamber for Murdock’s talking point for the day. And nothing in you disclaimer changes my opinion.
By the way, I just sent $100 to Nina to fund her litigation. That shows where I stand!
Dennis, compare “unhinged” with the diatribes of MSNBC. How does unhinged rank as compared with Hitler, racist, tyrant, homophobe, transphobe etc etc. MSNBC calls everyone a racist and you have no issue with it.
I am glad that you flushed $100 down the toilet, you really are a naïve and foolish person.
She is a lying, far left lunatic that is clearly insane. As are you. Anything else?
If the disinformation campaign was such a good thing why didn’t they stick to their guns. They let slip where they are really coming from and decided togo back to censorship in the shadows. You would be mistaken if you thought it was just a change of heart.
History is littered with fools run astray with lust of transformating society to the fools’ ideal. It’s no more apparent than the Democratic Party and their progressive ideas of nirvana. Their appetite for controlling is expansive; free-speech, criminal anarchy, polytypical advantages, education and vast number of other movements they have embraced. These fools mustn’t be allowed to control any lever of government or leadership.
I pray that those of the left persuasion see the light and the damage their Utopian quest have caused and is causing.
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
– Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
“My advice to white people is to get the —- away from black people because there’s no fixing this.”
– Scott Adams, Dilbert