Published On: Wed, Jan 21st, 2015

Paris Mayor to File Defamation Lawsuit against Fox News

Anne Hidalgo

The mayor of Paris has condemned erroneous Fox News reports that suggested that parts of the city were “no-go zones” for non-Muslims and for the police, saying in an interview with CNN that she plans to file a lawsuit against the news organization for defaming the city, the Los Angeles Times said.

“The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced”, Anne Hidalgo said. “I think we’ll have to sue, I think we’ll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed, ” the mayor told CNN.

Fox News last week apologized for the reports, which included a segment on Jeanine Pirro’s show in which a guest said that such no-go zones exist not only in France, but throughout Europe, including the British city of Birmingham, the Times said.

“Over the course of this last week we have made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France, ” Fox News anchor Julie Banderas said. “To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country, and no credible information to support the assertion that there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion”, the Times said.

Pirro also apologized for allowing the comments to be aired without challenge. Her guest, Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, acknowledged a “terrible error for which I am deeply sorry.” He will be making a donation to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, he said, according to the Times.

All the contrition does not appear to have mollified the Paris mayor. “I am of course shocked by the stigmatizing foolishness of Fox News, ” Hidalgo tweeted Tuesday. The mayor’s office confirmed to the French newspaper L’Express that complaints will be filed in France and the United States, the Times said.

“Fox News may have apologized, but continues to evoke zones of high criminality in Paris, which is still wrong, ” L’Express quoted the mayor’s media office as saying. “The problem isn’t the editorial line, of course, but the broadcast of inaccurate information that is prejudicial to the image of Paris in general”, the Times said.

The chances of a successful lawsuit are slim, said Anthony Fargo, director of the Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies. In the U.S., the law doesn’t recognize the rights of cities, states and governmental bodies to sue for defamation, Fargo said, making the likelihood of success “very remote at best”, according to the Times.

“This is kind of an interesting attempt by the mayor to try to vindicate to some extent the reputation of Paris or at least appear to be doing so in the eyes of the citizens of Paris, ” Fargo said.

And at least one problem for the city of Paris is whether French courts have any jurisdiction over Fox News, Fargo said. The city would at least have to show that Fox News has some presence in the country before it could sue it in French court, the Times said.

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