Coordination between Trump administration agencies and Fox News may violate anti-propaganda laws. Federal law prohibits Executive Branch officials from creating “covert propaganda,” defined as communications by private individuals that fail to disclose the government’s role as the source of the content.
We and Restore Public Trust have already demanded an investigation following the revelation that a Fox News script was submitted to an EPA official for approval prior to being read on-air with no disclosure by a Fox News personality in the lead-in to an interview with EPA then-Administrator Scott Pruitt—a violation of anti-propaganda laws.
Additionally, we’ve requested that the White House Counsel investigate whether administration officials engaged in unlawful lobbying and government-sponsored propaganda by coordinating with Fox corporate executives to secure cover from the network they believed was needed to secure passage of the recently-enacted “First Step Act.”
The Trump administration is illegally withholding documents that could reveal whether four additional Executive Branch agencies illegally coordinated with certain media outlets, including Fox News. The Departments of State, Treasury and Homeland Security, as well as the Small Business Administration all have either hired former Fox News contributors in key communications roles or had high-ranking officials frequently appear on Fox News and similar outlets. We’re investigating whether they are pushing illegal propaganda.
The possibility of such illegal coordination is fueled by the fact that at least a dozen former Fox employees are currently serving in senior communications roles within the administration. For example:
- Prior to serving as the Director of Communications for the U.S. Mission to the UN, Jonathan Wachtel was a Fox News producer for nearly two decades and worked on projects including a documentary special called, “Donald Trump the Disrupter”
- Tony Sayegh, the Treasury Department’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, was a regular Fox News contributor from 2009 until he entered the Trump administration
We filed a lawsuit to force these four agencies to reveal documents showing whether they have violated federal laws guarding against government-sponsored propaganda. Hiding that information undermines democracy, and it’s illegal. The American people deserve to know whether the Trump administration is violating those laws and how widespread the violations are.
We expect the government to reply to our lawsuit by March 27, 2019.