Left-wing media analysts have noted an abrupt change in Fox News coverage of special counsel John Durham's court filing alleging Hillary Clinton campaign ties to "exploiting" access to internet data in "gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump."
Both Mediaite and CNN noted Fox News now gives scant attention to claims Hillary Clinton's campaign "spied" on Trump.
The media critics say Fox's change came after Hillary Clinton's New York State Democratic Convention speech Thursday where she alluded to a potential lawsuit against conservative media, suggesting they had violated a legal standard to prove libel: "actual malice."
Clinton, denouncing the coverage of Durham's Feb. 11 court filing, claimed Fox News was "getting awfully close to actual malice."
Durham's legal filing never accuses Hillary Clinton herself of spying or wiretapping the Trump campaign or the Trump White House.
But the special counsel does make clear her campaign lawyer Michael Sussmannn, who has ties to high-tech firm, sought to monitor the internet traffic of the Trump campaign, Donald Trump's personal residence in Trump Tower, and the White House.
Still, Hillary Clinton's threat of a lawsuit might have effectively chilled media reports on Durham's allegations that her campaign spied on the Trump campaign.
False claims – including those made in the Steele dossier that was partially funded by the DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign – promoted the idea Trump's campaign had secret ties to Russian agents. These allegations were used as the pretext for an FBI counter-intelligence probe of Trump and his campaign.
Several federal probes, including that of special counsel Robert Mueller, found no evidence Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"Fox leads the charge with accusations against me, counting on their audience to fall for it again," Clinton told New York Democrats in her speech. "And, as an aside, they're getting awfully close to actual malice in their attacks."
Sussmann has moved to dismiss Durham's charges against him, including the charge he lied to the FBI when he approached the bureau to an open a probe on Trump. Sussmann falsely told the FBI he was not working for the Clinton campaign.
Sussmann had indeed been on the payroll of the Clinton campaign.
CNN's far-left media critic Oliver Darcy suggested "it is a strong possibility" that Fox News has been backing down from its Clinton coverage.
Darcy cited Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill who told him: "They went too far with their bulls**t coverage about 'spying' over the last week, so have retreated."
Darcy and CNN led efforts to have President Trump deplatformed from Twitter and have since called for the deplatforming of competing conservative cable channels like Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN.
But Fox News' Sean Hannity briefly broke from the network's silence on the Durham allegation Thursday night after Clinton's speech and Durham's latest motion, as Mediaite noted.
"It's called news," Hannity said. "Hillary, we invite you to bring it on. It's from a legal filing we quoted exactly from the filing that was put in federal court."
The phrase "actual malice" has been in the news because of Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times, where a federal judge dismissed the case, saying the former Alaska governor had failed to meet the libel standard.
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