Jason Donner, a former reporter for Fox News, is suing the right-wing network for retaliation and discrimination, alleging the conservative cable giant fired him because he opposed Fox’s “false coverage of the January 6th insurrection.”
Donner, who started at the network in 2010 and worked his way up to Capitol Hill reporter and producer, was terminated by the network in the fall of 2022. Since then, he has gone to work for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) as a senior adviser.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Donner’s lawsuit, filed Sept. 27 in D.C. Superior Court, accuses Fox News of violating the D.C. Human Rights Act, including three counts of discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. Fox News filed a notice of removal from the superior court to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday.
Donner claims in the suit that while “he did not share many of the views expressed by Fox News' Opinion page, or the evening hour television commentators, it did not impact his ability to report on Capitol Hill news until the wake of the 2020 election.”
However, according to Donner, that all changed after the 2020 election when the channel began pushing baseless claims that former President Donald Trump lost due to widespread election fraud.
Referencing voting software firm Dominion Voting System’s defamation lawsuit throughout his complaint, Donner noted that backlash from Trump supporters over the network’s early Arizona call for Joe Biden pushed the network to peddle election lies to boost sagging ratings.
Claiming he had already been reprimanded for a Nov. 2020 tweet fact-checking the infamous Rudy Giuliani press conference alleging rampant voting machine fraud, Donner says in the complaint that the “toxic environment for Fox News' reporters attempting to report truthfully reached its peak” after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Noting that he was inside the Capitol during the riots, Donner says that he was critical of the network’s on-air reporting at the time, especially news anchors describing the insurrectionists as “peaceful” while saying their disappointment was understandable.
“I’m your Capitol Hill Producer inside the Capitol where tear gas is going off on the second floor in the Ohio clock corridor, rioters are storming the building, reports of shots fired outside the House Chamber,” he claims he told the Fox News control room at the time. “I don’t want to hear any of this fucking shit on our air ever again because you're gonna get us all killed.”
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Donner claims that after that incident, DC’s Vice President of Editorial Doug Rohrbeck and DC Bureau Chief Bryan Boughton began participating in daily editorial calls on a more frequent basis, circulating “far-right wing opinion articles to shape the stories reported on by the news division.”
The ex-reporter adds that after October 2021, when former Fox News star Tucker Carlson produced his Jan. 6 revisionist series Patriot Purge, he told his supervisors “that it was demoralizing that Fox News would allow Carlson to gaslight the country with false information,” especially since some Fox News reporters were present during the Jan. 6 attack.
The following spring, Donner claims “Fox News began to discriminate and retaliate against Donner,” asserting that his new supervisor NuNu Japardize accused him of creating a “toxic environment” in the workplace. According to Donner, because it “became evident” he was being targeted for speaking out about Fox News’ “false reporting” and his political affiliation, he soon took medical leave.
After meeting with human resources in August 2022 to further complain about Carlson's false reporting and the “toxic environment it breeds at Fox News,” which he says was the second time he’d complained about Carlson’s Jan. 6 coverage, Donner says he was eventually fired after calling in sick the following month.
“This was a pretextual firing based on Donner's political views and affiliation, his refusal to report false information regarding the 2020 election and January 6th, and for his engaging in protected activity,” the complaint says. Ultimately, 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 appeased the Trump supporters and former President Trump.”
Following the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 insurrection, Fox News has been hit with an array of defamation lawsuits over its coverage. Besides settling with Dominion for a massive $787.5 million, the network is still facing a billion-dollar case from fellow voting software company Smartmatic, as well as a defamation suit from Jan. 6 demonstrator Ray Epps. Not to mention the fact that Fox Corp and the Murdoch family are staring down lawsuits from shareholders and pension funds for allegedly neglecting their fiduciary responsibilities by airing election lies and opening the company up to defamation litigation.
Additionally, the network recently settled a lawsuit with former Tucker Carlson producer Abby Grossberg, who accused the network of coercing her into giving false testimony in the Dominion case along with subjecting her to a toxic work environment. Fox News ultimately paid Grossberg $12 million to put her allegations to bed.