A federal appeals court judge ripped major media outlets for bias in an otherwise little-known case involving libel.
D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman’s ruling dealt with a case involving a 2018 report from Global Witness Publishing accusing Christiana Tah and Randolph McClain, both Liberian government officials, of taking bribes from Exxon. The two officials filed suit against the publisher claiming they were defamed. Silberman dismissed the case on Friday.
But in his partial dissent, Silberman engaged in what Fox News described as an “unprecedented written tirade” against the mainstream media, writing that the Supreme Court ought to revisit its landmark New York Times v. Sullivan ruling from 1964 that gave the press extensive protections under the First Amendment against lawsuits filed by public officials.
“[N]ew considerations have arisen over the last 50 years that make the New York Times decision (which I believe I have faithfully applied in my dissent) a threat to American Democracy,” he writes. “It must go.”
“The increased power of the press is so dangerous today because we are very close to one-party control of these institutions,” wrote Silberman, appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.
He went on to blast the media for its “shocking” bias against Republicans in general.
“Although the bias against the Republican Party—not just controversial individuals—is rather shocking today, this is not new; it is a long-term, secular trend going back at least to the ’70s,” Silberman, who has been a senior judge on the D.C. Circuit since 2000, noted further.
“Two of the three most influential papers (at least historically), The New York Times and The Washington Post, are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets. And the news section of The Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction,” the judge continued.
“The orientation of these three papers is followed by The Associated Press and most large papers across the country (such as the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe). Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet. Even the government-supported National Public Radio follows along,” he added.
Silberman also ripped Big Tech, which he accused of skewing news coverage “in ways favorable to the Democratic Party” while also employing censorship of disparate viewpoints and information. He referenced social media platforms’ ban of the New York Post’s explosive pre-election reports providing sordid details of contents found on a laptop abandoned at a Delaware computer repair show by Hunter Biden.
“It is well-accepted that viewpoint discrimination ‘raises the specter that the Government may effectively drive certain ideas or viewpoints from the marketplace,'” Silberman wrote. “But ideological homogeneity in the media—or in the channels of information distribution—risks repressing certain ideas from the public consciousness just as surely as if access were restricted by the government.”
The appeals judge went on to cite recent “serious efforts to muzzle” news organizations like Fox News that do not fall under “Democratic Party ideological control.”
“It should be borne in mind that the first step taken by any potential authoritarian or dictatorial regime is to gain control of communications, particularly the delivery of news. It is fair to conclude, therefore, that one-party control of the press and media is a threat to a viable democracy,” Silberman continued. “It may even give rise to countervailing extremism.”
He added: “The First Amendment guarantees a free press to foster a vibrant trade in ideas. But a biased press can distort the marketplace. And when the media has proven its willingness—if not eagerness—to so distort, it is a profound mistake to stand by unjustified legal rules that serve only to enhance the press’ power.”
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