On Wednesday (2/11), the City Council of Paris voted in favor of filing a defamation lawsuit against Fox News.
About a month earlier, on Jan. 10, Jeanine Pirro – host of the Fox News show “Justice with Judge Jeanine” – invited terrorism analyst Steve Emerson onto her show to speak about so-called Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe. Emerson responded by saying,
“They’re sort of amorphous, they’re not contiguous necessarily, but they’re sort of safe havens. And they’re places where the governments, like France, Britain, Sweden, Germany — they don’t exercise any sovereignty so you basically have zones where Sharia courts are set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where police don’t go in.”
Emerson said these “no-go zones” existed all over Europe, but keyed in on the British city of Birmingham, saying,
“There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.” [Note: According to a 2011 census, only 22% of the population in Birmingham is Muslim]
Fox’s coverage of the “no-go zones” came as French law enforcement scrambled to deal with the fallout of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
On multiple occasions, Fox reported that Paris was full of these “no-go zones”. At one point, the network even went so far as to broadcast a map of Paris with seven such zones outlined.
As word spread of Emerson’s comments on “Judge Jeanine”, however, European officials quickly began to debunk the “no-go zone” claims – in no uncertain terms.
“When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day… This guy’s clearly a complete idiot,”
said British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Fox News issued two apologies for the claims the next day.
“To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion,”
said Julie Banderas on Saturday night’s “Fox Report”. Jeanine Pirro issued an apology on her show as well.
But apparently their words weren’t enough for Parisian officials.
“When we’re insulted, and when we’ve had an image, then I think we’ll have to sue, I think we’ll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed,”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told CNN on Tuesday, adding that the claims had tarnished both the image and the honor of Paris. Wednesday’s city council vote officially gave her the authorization to file that lawsuit against Fox News.
The network has vowed to fight the lawsuit, however. A recent statement issued by Dori Ann Hanswirth (a lawyer representing Fox News) said,
“The decision by the City of Paris to bring legal proceedings against a United States news organization is antithetical to free speech. Fox News will invoke every protection afforded it under all applicable laws.”
The whole “no-go zone” myth actually started well before Emerson’s comments on “Judge Jeanine”. On January 7, three days earlier, popular Fox News pundit Sean Hannity said the following on his show:
“It seems if you watch in recent years, it’s not just France but all of Europe, there’s been a major influx, immigration, people from Muslim countries. They’ve even — and they’ve not assimilated, they’ve separated. They have no-go zones. If you’re non-Muslim, you’re not allowed. Not police, not even fire department if there’s a fire. Sharia courts have been allowed to be established. Prayer rugs in just about every hotel.”
Fox News continued to report the myth throughout the week; a quick keyword search yields 16 mentions of the term “no-go zones” on Fox News programming between Jan. 7 and Jan. 10.
And apparently Fox News didn’t stop discussing these zones even after they issued their apologies.
Just a day after Fox apologized, Hannity used an isolated “firsthand experience” of correspondent Greg Palkot to once again claim that France indeed had Muslim “no-go zones”.
“They have a no-go zone, police are not allowed! Non-Muslims aren’t allowed! That to me is — why would France or any other country allow Muslims that have come into the country to basically take over portions of the country? That is madness to me!”
said Hannity on the show.
Three days later, during a conversation with Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, Hannity delivered a scathing rant against France, saying,
“…they tried to appease the Islamists in their midst and the Muslims. They let them separate. They let them have their no-go zones. They let them have their own neighborhoods, ostensibly a city — a mini-state within a state, their own court system, sharia courts.”
The next day, Andrea Tantaros – who co-hosts the Fox News program “Outnumbered” – delivered her own rant, saying:
“There are broad swaths and pockets, as we know, of these ‘no-go zones’ that have Sharia law and they’re only going to get larger because of the fear to acknowledge it and fight it with policies that will stop these immigration tactics.”