Latest Lawsuit in Democracy Forward’s Probe Into Trump Administration’s Violation of Anti-Propaganda Laws

Washington, D.C. — Today, Democracy Forward sued the Trump administration for withholding records that could reveal whether four agencies have coordinated with conservative media outlets — including communications related to the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — in violation of federal laws aimed at guarding against government-sponsored propaganda. The case was filed against the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of the Treasury.

The suit is part of Democracy Forward’s long-term investigation into the Trump administration’s potentially illegal coordination with Fox News, One America News Network, Breitbart, and other conservative media outlets to produce “covert propaganda,” which is created when government officials create content for publication or broadcast on private platforms without publicly disclosing their role.

Documents obtained by Democracy Forward to date have revealed that:

  • Environmental Protection Agency officials expressly approved a script championing the Trump administration’s work that was read by a news anchor in advance of an appearance on Fox & Friends by then-Administrator Scott Pruitt. The script was read on air without acknowledging the government’s role in creating it.
  • Treasury officials requested a number of changes to an article published on Fox Business. The official included an ask for a tweet from the outlet’s Twitter account, and a Fox Business reporter told the official that she “just did exactly what you asked me to do.”
  • Department of Homeland Security officials routinely leaked individuals’ immigration statuses to Fox News and Breitbart, likely in violation of privacy rules.
  • A Fox News producer promised Betsy DeVos “an easy interview.”

This latest request could reveal additional improper coordination — perhaps most glaringly about the Trump administration’s deficient response to COVID-19, for which Fox News has helped engineer what one reporter called “an elaborate distraction campaign.”

The suit was filed on June 23 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read the complaint here.

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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

Press Contact:
Charisma Troiano
(202) 701-1781
[email protected]