Deception & Misdirection

The Trusted News Initiative: RFK Jr. Lawsuit

Media Collaboration to Protect Preferred Narratives

The Trusted News Initiative (full series)
Two Liberals | “Harmful Disinformation”
RFK Jr. Lawsuit | Climate Journalism

RFK Jr. Lawsuit

Kennedy, who is making a longshot challenge for the Democratic Party presidential nomination against President Joe Biden, is joined in the lawsuit by several right-wing or right-leaning entities and individuals such as Creative Destruction Media; Trial Site News; Ty and Charlene Bollinger, who founded the Truth About Cancer and the Truth About Vaccines; independent journalist Ben Swann; Erin Elizabeth Finn, the publisher of Health Nut News; Jim Hoft, founder of the Gateway Pundit; Dr. Joseph Mercola; Jeff Crouere, host of Louisiana-based radio and TV show Ringside Politics; and Ben Tapper, a chiropractor.

“People are losing faith in the legacy media and legacy media [that]—rather than reflecting on their shortcomings and making changes—instead, through TNI, doubled down to protect their own economic interests,” said Kim Mack Rosenberg, acting general counsel for Children’s Health Defense.

Children’s Health Defense did not sue the TNI, but rather named specific partners BBC, The Washington Post, Reuters, and the Associated Press as defendants in the lawsuit first filed in January in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The complaint regularly refers to the Trusted News Initiative.

The news outlets petitioned to have the case moved to the more favorable U.S. Southern District of New York. After the judge granted the motion to move the case to New York, Children’s Health Defense dropped the case on May 18.

On May 31, Kennedy’s group filed an identical case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana before U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty, the same judge who imposed the temporary injunction on contact between the federal government and social media companies.

“When social media companies collude with government to censor critics of government policy, that violates the First Amendment. When they collude with major mainstream news organizations to censor rival online news publishers, that violates antitrust law,” argues Jed Rubenfeld, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit quotes the 1945 Supreme Court ruling in the Associated Press v. United States that held the AP violated the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. The high court’s majority opinion said “the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public.” The majority opinion continued, “Freedom to publish is guaranteed by the Constitution, but freedom to combine to keep others from publishing is not.”

The 108-page complaint by Kennedy’s group lays out a detailed argument with numerous examples of news organizations in the Trusted News Initiatives have “prohibited reporting” of topics deemed “misinformation.”

A few examples turned out to be true. Others are very debatable, but time and emerging evidence have shown these examples were not outrageous claims.

The lawsuit gives as examples of “prohibited reporting”:

  • “Claims that COVID-19 was manmade.”
  • “Claims that COVID-19 was manufactured or bio-engineered.”
  • “Claims that COVID-19 was created by a government or country.” In March, the FBI determined that COVID-19 most likely originated from a lab leak in Wuhan. Also, scientists have since called for more inquiry into the lab leak.
  • “Claims that ‘contradict’ the [World Health Organization] or U.S. health officials’ guidance on the treatment, prevention, or transmission of COVID-19.” Since this time, the public health community is widely viewed has having been unprepared for the pandemic.
  • “Claims about the COVID vaccines that contradict ‘expert consensus’ from U.S. health authorities or the WHO.” The complaint cites TNI member, The Washington Post’s op-ed piece about problems with expert opinion during COVID-19.
  • “Claims that Hydroxychloroquine (‘HCQ’) is an effective treatment for COVID,” “Claims that Ivermectin (‘IVM’) is an effective treatment for COVID,” “claims that HCQ or IVM is safe to use as a treatment for COVID,” and “recommendations of the use of HCQ or IVM against COVID.” The lawsuit cites a 2021 legal opinion by Nebraska Attorney General Douglas Peterson that the medications have been safe for human use for years.
  • “Claims that COVID is no more dangerous to some populations than the seasonal flu” and “claims that the mortality rate of COVID is for some populations the same or lower than that of the seasonal flu.” The lawsuit cites an NPR story, headlined “In Kids, the Risk of COVID-19 and the Flu Are Similar—But the Risk Perception Isn’t.”
  • “Claims suggesting that the number of deaths caused by COVID is lower than official figures assert.” On this point, the lawsuit references research by the American Association of Medical Colleges to assert, “In fact, official COVID mortality figures frequently failed to distinguish between individuals who died because of COVID-19 and individuals who died with COVID-19, resulting in significant overstatements of COVID deaths.”
  • “Claims that face masks or mask mandates do not prevent the spread of COVID.” The lawsuit cites a New York Times article questioning the effectiveness of mask mandates.
  • Somewhat out of place among all the COVID-19 hits, one example says, “Claims that a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden was found at a computer repair store in or around October 2020 or that the contents reportedly found on that laptop, including potentially compromising emails, videos, and photographs, were authentic.” On this point, both the New York Times and Washington Post eventually verified the authenticity of the Hunter Biden laptop.

Legal experts contend the case has merit and shouldn’t be shunned out of hand. “Media outlets do not get a First Amendment exemption from antitrust laws,” Lyrissa Lidsky, chair of U.S. Constitutional Law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, told Fox News.

Lidsky further noted that the newspaper publishing industry lobbied for the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 so that competing newspapers in the same market could merge advertising divisions while keeping competing editorial voices. These are otherwise known as joint operating agreements. This Newspaper Preservation Act was passed in response to a 1969 Supreme Court ruling in Citizen Publishing Co. v. United States that held two competing newspapers in Arizona couldn’t have such a joint operating agreement based on antitrust law.

The lawsuit alleges the power of the news outlets with Big Tech firms muscled out smaller publishers: “Federal antitrust law has its own name for this kind of ‘industry partnership’: It’s called a ‘group boycott’ and is a per se violation of the Sherman Act.”

The complaint elaborates:

YouTube, for example, has a market share of over 75% in the Internet video-hosting market.

Facebook has a market share of close to 100% in the online social networking market.

Google’s search engine has a market share of over 90% the online search market.

Through this market power, and through their combined roles as news aggregators and hosts of third-party news content, the TNI’s Big Tech Members possess an overwhelmingly dominant position in the online news market, allowing them to dictate which news publishers receive access to, and which are denied access to, hundreds of millions of news consumers.

Lidsky stressed plaintiffs still have a burden of proof to show that competing media outlets worked together to suppress information and suppress smaller competitors.

“One problem is that we rely on the media to be watchdogs of the government,” said Lidsky, a media law expert and former dean of the University of Missouri School of Law. “The allegation here seems to be that powerful actors in the media and the government colluded to suppress information.”

In the next installment, the Trusted News Initiative pushes the leftist narrative of climate change.

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the author of Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (Bombardier Books, 2020). He is a journalist who reports for the Daily Signal,…
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