National Security

Ex-head of DHS disinformation office sues Fox News

The head of the short-lived Department of Homeland Security (DHS) disinformation board has launched a defamation suit against Fox News, alleging the network published false reports about her that endangered her life.

Nina Jankowicz was tapped to lead DHS’s Disinformation Governance Board, and though the board never held a meeting, it was heavily criticized by the GOP and was regularly covered by Fox News.

The purpose of the board was to coordinate disinformation efforts at DHS across topics ranging from migration to addressing plots from Russia and Iran.

The Republican National Committee dubbed it the “Ministry of Truth” in a nod to George Orwell’s novel “1984” and couched disinformation as “any speech we don’t like.”

Fox News mentioned Jankowicz and her role leading the board more than 300 times in its resulting coverage, with hosts and commentators asserting she planned to censor speech with nicknames like “disinfo overlord,” “disinformation czaress,” and “minister of truth.” 

“Fox’s employee hosts and commentators derided and lied about Jankowicz on repeat — and continue to do so even today. Several of these falsehoods stand out as especially destructive — and directly contrary to available, verifiable evidence,” according to the suit filed Wednesday.

It adds that Fox falsely claimed Jankowicz “intended to censor Americans’ speech” and that she “wanted to give verified Twitter users, including herself, the power to edit others’ tweets.”

Jankowicz resigned from government shortly after taking the role when DHS decided to “pause” the work of the board following backlash.

“With the Board’s work paused and its future uncertain, and I have decided to leave DHS to return to my work in the public sphere. It is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the Board became a distraction from the Department’s vital work, and indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it is necessary,” she wrote at the time.

But Jankowicz has remained a lightning rod for GOP leadership, including the House Judiciary Committee, which issued a subpoena to her in March to discuss the swiftly disbanded board.

At the time, Jankowicz was in the midst of fundraising to sue Fox News over the way the board was covered by the outlet, claiming it made “scaremongering statements about my role, my views, and my personal life over the next nine months.”

In a GoFundMe post, Jankowicz said misinformation about her role began as soon as her April hiring “even though the Board had nothing to do with arbitrating or restricting speech.” 

The defamation suit against Fox News follows an agreement by the outlet to pay Dominion Voting Systems nearly $800 million in order to avoid going to trial in another defamation suit.

Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jankowicz’s suit alleged the outlet appeared to personally target her given that the coverage extended well past her resignation.

“Fox’s defamatory coverage has caused Jankowicz and her family immense suffering. Jankowicz has been doxed, threatened, harassed relentlessly, and even cyberstalked,” the suit says.

“Fox enfolded these lies in ugly language that could have no other purpose than to denigrate Jankowicz’s character and professional reputation, particularly since they continued long after Jankowicz’s resignation from government.”

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