Judge Tosses Defamation Suit After Fox News Argues That No ‘Reasonable Viewer’ Takes Tucker Carlson Seriously

Tucker Carlson speaks at a political event.
Rich Polk / Getty Images

A judge threw out a defamation lawsuit against Fox News after lawyers for the cable news network successfully argued that no “reasonable viewer” would take the claims of Tucker Carlson as factual.

The lawsuit was brought by former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said she took a $150,000 payoff in order to remain quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. In a suit filed in Manhattan court, she claimed that the Fox News host defamed her by calling the payout “a classic case of extortion,” CBS News reported. However, lawyers for the network claimed to U.S. District Court Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil that the remarks were not meant to be taken as fact.

Vyskocil said the network “persuasively” argued that “any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statements” made by the opinionated host. In her decision to throw out the case, the judge stated that his remarks were meant to he “rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary” to frame a political debate, and thus could not qualify as defamation.

As The Hill noted, McDougal disputed the ruling, saying that Carlson acted with malice when he made the claim that she was extorting the president and that he had reported something that he knew to be a lie, presenting it as news. The Playboy model claimed that she and Trump carried on an affair between 2006 and 2007, within the same time frame that he is alleged to have had a tryst with Stormy Daniels. He has denied both allegations.

Tucker Carlson speaks at an event.
  Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The network released a statement praising the decision to toss out the case, saying it was a victory for free speech rights, and stressing that Carlson was well within his rights to share his analysis.

“Karen McDougal’s lawsuit attempted to silence spirited opinion commentary on matters of public concern. The court today held that the First Amendment plainly prohibits such efforts to stifle free speech,” read the statement, via The Hill. “The decision is a victory not just for FOX News Media, but for all defenders of the First Amendment.”

Carlson has gained a reputation as one of the most fervent defenders of President Trump, though his rhetoric has often led to attacks from critics. Earlier this year, his show faced sharp scrutiny after extensive racist and sexist writings online were connected to the show’s top writer. As The Inquisitr reported, the writer resigned after the reports connected him to online posts that had been written anonymously.