Former Fox News staffer says he was fired for challenging Jan. 6 and election fraud reporting

The Fox News studios and headquarters in New York City on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
The Fox News studios and headquarters in New York City. (Ted Shaffrey / Associated Press)

Fox News is facing another lawsuit related to its reporting during the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Jason Donner, a former reporter and producer in the network's Washington bureau, has filed a wrongful termination suit, claiming he was fired in retaliation for calling out misinformation presented in Fox News on former President Trump's erroneous charges of election fraud and the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

"Fox News wanted to purge the news division of any staff that would not get in line with the directive to only report information that appease the Trump supporters and former President Trump," according to the suit filed last month in Superior Court in the District of Columbia. The suit has been transferred to U.S. District Court.

Donner, who worked at the conservative news network for 12 years, was fired on Sept. 28, 2022, two days after calling in sick. He was told that he had been terminated for "being late for work and not showing up for work," the suit said.

Donner, now employed as an aide for a Republican member of Congress, contends that he had fallen out of favor at the network after several instances where he challenged the veracity of the network's reporting.

Fox News did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.

Donner was inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 when Trump supporters stormed the building. When he heard that Fox News was describing the protest as "peaceful" and the rioters as "severely disappointed," he called the control room to complain as he and other reporters had to hide during the violent attack, according to the lawsuit.

Read more: Tucker Carlson departs Fox News, pushed out by Rupert Murdoch

Donner said he had been reprimanded by a supervisor in November 2020 for a tweet about Rudolf Giuliani's news conference in Philadelphia, where the lawyer spread Trump's false allegations of voter fraud. Donner pointed out that Giuliani's comments at the event contradicted what he said in court where the Trump campaign had made legal challenges.

The suit noted how other journalists at Fox News were criticized by their bosses for not considering the feelings of the Trump supporters in the network's audience who were angry about the result of the election that elected President Biden.

Those comments are supported by the depositions and evidence collected for the Dominion Voting Systems defamation suit against Fox News, which was settled in April for $787.5 million.

In October 2021, Donner complained to the network's Washington bureau chief, Bryan Boughton, about Tucker Carlson's false statements regarding Jan. 6. Carlson promoted the unproved theory that the FBI instigated the riots in a documentary that was shown on the Fox Nation streaming service. Carlson showed clips from the program on his Fox News show.

Donner told Boughton it was demoralizing that Fox News would allow Carlson to "gaslight the country" with false information.

The suit said Boughton acknowledged that Fox News insiders were upset about the documentary but that there was "nothing they could do because Tucker had gotten bigger than the network and was out of control. The executives could not stop him."

Read more: Rupert Murdoch, the powerful and polarizing media mogul, steps down as chairman of Fox

Carlson was pulled off the air on April 24, a week after Fox News reached its settlement with Dominion.

The Dominion lawsuit alleged that Fox News damaged the company’s reputation when the network repeatedly spread falsehoods about voter fraud in the 2020 election. Smartmatic, a voting machine company, has a similar suit against the network, asking for $2.7 billion in damages.

Former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg claimed that network lawyers coerced her into making false or misleading statements during the network’s legal battle with Dominion. She received a $12-million settlement from the company.

Fox News is also facing a defamation lawsuit from Ray Epps, a protester at the Jan. 6 riots who said the network falsely identified him as an FBI informant.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.