Baltimore's Top Prosecutor Attempts To Send FCC Against Local Fox Affiliate

Don’t call yourself a supporter of the First Amendment while attempting to punish a media outlet for criticizing you.


The office of Baltimore's top prosecutor, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate the city's Fox affiliate because of its critiques of her.

This is not, of course, how Zy Richardson, Mosby's communications director, frames the issue in the May 5 letter she has sent to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. Richardson attempts an argument that Fox affiliate WBFF's coverage of Mosby is "misleading, racist, and extremely dangerous."

What the letter is actually complaining about, though, is constitutionally protected speech. Part of the letter's "evidence" is that WBFF simply runs far more stories about Mosby than the other Baltimore networks. Richardson incorrectly argues that the "tone" of Fox's coverage violates FCC rules. She writes that Fox News is "infamous for its bias against people of color," shifting abruptly to a complaint about Tucker Carlson's commentary, which has nothing to do with whether WBFF's coverage of Mosby is some sort of regulatory violation.

The letter complains that WBFF has broadcasted Mosby's home address and attempted to find out which schools her children attended, which the letter classifies as part of the network's "heinous acts and deliberately dangerous activities."

There is no point in the letter where Richardson actually details anything WBFF has done that is a violation of the law or FCC regulations. The letter links to several stories that she believes are "so slanted that they are not simply a dog-whistle to the right wing, they have become a megaphone that amplifies, encourages, and provides fodder for racists throughout the city and beyond, to continue sending hate mail and death threats."

One of many problems with this claim is that there's actually no sign of these alleged racist dog whistles in the six pieces she linked to. The pieces all involve analyses of the decisions being made by her office, like fewer prosecutions of low-level crimes and drug crimes, travel funded by outside organizations, and oversight of her office. All of this is completely fair game for network coverage, and several of them even include responses by her office.

But, yes, there's a lot of critical coverage of Mosby's office at WBFF, and it's absolutely reasonable for an independent observer (which, to be clear, Mosby's communications director is not) to conclude that WBFF is definitely not a fan of Mosby, playing instead to a tough-on-crime audience that supports the drug war.

But this complaint is an attempt to marshal the power of the government against critics of a government official. UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh over at The Volokh Conspiracy (hosted on this site) notes that contrary to what Richardson writes (that the FCC is authorized to act against slanted news), the FCC has actually indicated, "no Government agency can authenticate the news, or should try to do so," and that they will "eschew the censor's role, including efforts to establish news distortion in situations where Government intervention would constitute a worse danger than the possible rigging itself."

Mosby's attempt to get the federal government to punish WBFF for the viewpoints it expresses is very clearly unconstitutional. Richardson explains that her requests to the affiliate that "WBFF cease its intentional distortion of the news" has not been led to results, which is why she's turning to the FCC. But there is nothing in the letter that provides any evidence that the news has been distorted. It's a simple assertion they're asking the FCC to accept.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican nominated to the position by President Donald Trump, blasted Mosby's letter Monday, calling it an attempt by "Democratic officials to pressure the FCC and its regulated entities into censoring news coverage and political speech that Democrats don't like."

Richardson responded to the Baltimore Sun by trying to insist that she's not trying to engage in censorship of the press, despite a massive pile of evidence otherwise.

"We are very clear in the letter that we support free speech and we support accountability of public officials," Richardson wrote. "To say otherwise is willfully ignorant. We are simply asking the FCC to look into the racist and hateful rhetoric that is consistently broadcast by WBFF Fox 45 and its potential to incite threats of violence on the state's attorney and her children."

To be clear here: Richardson is not just asking the FCC to "look into" what WBFF is doing. The letter's opening sentence is that it's a "formal complaint" that accuses the network of violating FCC regulations and ends by asking the FCC's chairwoman to "take action against the WBFF as soon as possible." Carr is not the person being willfully ignorant here.

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  1. Thank God the mean tweets stopped. Idiot fascist sympathizer Reasonite.

    1. This is what fascism looks like.

  2. This is an extension of the "words are violence" concept that has been popularized at campus demonstrations and any other time the left shows up to protest.

    What ever happened to the principle of inherent value of truth in this country? Was I previously naive in believing it existed?

    1. "Control" is the primary operative virtue. "Truth" is an operative virtue of convenience.

    2. Postmodernism at work.

      What they were right to do: question grand narratives, realize that spin on reality isn't truth.

      What they were wrong to do: assert that there is no such thing as truth by reducing everything to a narrative.

  3. go State!

  4. "misleading, racist, and extremely dangerous."

    Well we have been hearing for quite some time now, that is what you call anything or any one you do not like or agree with, right?

  5. Wow. She sent a Twitter rant to the FCC.

    Is the experiment to find out if stupid, unqualified people can do these jobs about over now?

  6. Even intentional distortion of the news is protected or the NY Times would be out of business.

    1. Except the NYT doesn't need protection from the gubmint. It's the propaganda arm and head cheerleader.

  7. Given the way Baltimore is run I don't think accountability is in their wheelhouse.

  8. Spend less time worrying about what a local news affiliate says and more time convicting perpetrators of actual crimes such as with the murder of Freddie Gray. 3 acquittals, 1 mistrial and 2 charges dropped.

  9. Seems like grounds for impeachment for abuse of her office.

  10. Love when she says "but we said we support free speech". Recall the Tim Burton movie "Mars Attacks". The aliens are running though the streets shooting people while saying "We come in peace".

  11. Oh the feds will be coming to Baltimore but they'll be heading in Mosby's and her husband's direction not the WBBF. She is under federal grand jury investigation and several subpoenas have been served. She and her husband Nick Mosby, City Council President, are going down soon.

    Some highlights:
    Bought $476,000 condominium on the Gulf of Mexico near Sarasota, Florida last month (Feb 2021), as well as a $545,000 property in near Orlando, Florida last September (2020).

    a $45,000 lien had been placed against the Mosby’s home for several years of unpaid back taxes.

    she had used her side travel business, which she has said is in inactive, to deduct $5,000 in federal income taxes and pay for plane travel for her husband, who is not an employee of her travel business.

    1. Sounds like dangerous, misleading racism to me. Can Reason not regulate their comments here?

    2. More “misleading, racist, and extremely dangerous" statements, I see.

    3. This FCC complaint is an obvious attempt to divert attention from the federal investigation.

  12. As a Baltimore refugee, irresponsible "leaders" like Marilyn Mosby are a major reason I no longer dwell there. During the Freddie Gray riots she egged The Mob on with a "no justice, no peace!" rant.
    Of course she failed to convict any of Gray's "assailants". Now she wants to silence media muckrakers who have discovered that Mosby is also a liar and thief in addition to her customary race-baiting. May the media hounds bite Mosby's as.....backside....and never let go!

    1. On the other hand violent crime actually fell here last year even as it rose in other big cities. She might bear some responsibility for rise in crime after Freddie Gray but more recently she seems to be improving things. Easing back on prosecuting petty crimes may actually be a good thing.

  13. If it walks like a nigger and quacks like a nigger ...

  14. I don't know it for sure that Fox may have more Black Americans of every background on their programs as contributors, anchors, and guests than any other channel?! I can say that they have quite a number and I am very glad to see it!!

  15. Super information
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