Will Fox's payout chasten right-wing Spanish-language media? Hardly
COMMENTARY The U.S. legal system scrutinizes English-language media like Fox, but not Spanish-language bullies like Alex Otaola — who's running for Miami-Dade mayor (and should not be dismissed).
Fox News just coughed up almost $800 million this week to settle a lawsuit that accused it — pretty accurately — of some of the darkest, most bald-faced lying in media history. If you live in South Florida, even if you’re not Latino, here’s one of the big questions you should be asking:
Could this have a chastening effect on the dark, bald-faced lying that typifies so much of Spanish-language media here?
Just kidding. Por supuesto it won’t. But that’s precisely why any South Floridian, in particular any Miamian, should feel gloomier about the ever-corroding state of civic discourse in this community — and the possible reckless consequences. Like the possible election of a reckless YouTube influencer to the highest office in Miami-Dade County.
More on that later. But let’s recap why Fox agreed to fork over $787.5 million — about a fifth of the conservative news network’s cash worth. According to the suit, it defamed the vote-tabulating company Dominion by repeating lies — lies it knew were lies — that the firm’s machines had been manipulated to rob then President Donald Trump of re-election in 2020. Rather than have the full scope of its lying exposed in a lengthy trial, Fox settled.
Technically, it didn’t have to admit to or apologize for its lies. But it didn’t need to. The world’s already seen the preliminary evidence, especially all the damning Fox emails, that indicate Dominion had an unusually strong case, one that probably would have cleared the U.S. legal system’s appropriately high bar for defamation claims. Settlement or trial, Fox got busted big time.
But this all happened in the English-speaking media universe, which the U.S. legal system actually pays attention to. Spanish-language media have always flown and continue to fly under that radar. So Fox could have been compelled to settle the Dominion suit for almost $800 billion. The right-wing radio shows, publications and social media that dominate the all-important conversation en español in this corner of America — and so often disgorge the kind of disinformation Fox did — would still shrug and mutter, “¿Y qué?” So what?
Fox could have been compelled to settle for almost $800 billion and the right-wing Spanish-language media that disgorge their own disinformation here would shrug and say, ¿Y qué? So what?
They’ll keep on trumpeting the falsehoods that score some of South Florida’s highest ratings, as reporting by outlets like WLRN and its news partner, the Miami Herald, keeps on confirming.
Drumbeats like: President Biden has thrown open the U.S. southern border so his administration can register undocumented migrants as Democrats as soon as they cross over — a favorite conspiracy theory of Actualidad Radio hosts Agustin Acosta and Carines Moncada.
Or that the violent attack last October on Paul Pelosi, the husband of then U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was staged in order to help Democrats win races in the November mid-term elections — a claim made by callers to La Poderosa 670 AM for weeks after the assault, and one La Poderosa hosts essentially indulged.
Or that Democrats like the Pelosis are, by default and definition, “socialistas” and “comunistas” whose diabolical agenda is to turn the U.S. into Cuba — which is the unhinged witch-hunt cry of Miami Republicans like Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar whenever they appear on reactionary Cuban exile Alex Otaola’s popular YouTube show, “Hola! Ota-Ola.”
Now Otaola is confident he can be elected Mayor of Miami-Dade County next year. He announced his candidacy earlier this week, complete with a suit-and-tie campaign photo that tries to make you forget the rabid demagogue he normally projects on his show.
This is, after all, the Joe McCarthy wannabe who calls Democrats “terrorists,” labels Black Lives Matter activists as “delinquents, savages and unscrupulous anti-Americans,” and last fall lambasted Cuban hurricane victims for being more focused on rebuilding their shattered homes instead of rising up against their communist dictatorship.
In his campaign launch announcement, Otaola laid out a platform that has nothing to do with making Miami-Dade’s exorbitant housing more accessible or improving its laughable public transit. It’s all about using county government to “get the communists out of Miami.”
And you know what? He may stand some chance of winning. Cubans and Latinos are Miami-Dade’s overwhelming majority population — and online social media influencers like Otaola hold an outsized appeal for them that can be leveraged into political office.
Especially when the lies they bark don’t get challenged the way Fox News did.