A former Capitol Hill reporter for Fox News filed a lawsuit against the network Monday accusing it of wrongfully firing him over his opposition to its coverage of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The reporter, Jason Donner, filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C., Superior Court accusing Fox News of discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and violating the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act when it fired him in the fall of 2022 after more than a decade at the network.
Though Donner says in the lawsuit he often disagreed politically with the cable news network’s big personalities, he claims it didn’t pose a problem for him professionally until the fallout from the 2020 election, when then-President Donald Trump pushed baseless claims that his reelection was “stolen” through widespread vote fraud, culminating in hundreds of his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers met to certify that Joe Biden had been elected president.
At Fox News, Donner claims, “reporters were facing pressure from the top-down to push the ‘election fraud claims.’” He says he was reprimanded for tweeting out facts about the election, with his boss telling him not to tweet his “opinions.”
Things came to a head on Jan. 6, when Donner, stationed inside the Capitol as it was coming under siege, heard Fox News reporting that the rioters were “peaceful.” He says in the lawsuit that he called the network’s control room and said: “I’m your Capitol Hill Producer inside the Capitol where tear gas is going off on the second floor in the Ohio clock corridor, rioters are storming the building, reports of shots fired outside the House Chamber. I don’t want to hear any of this fucking shit on our air ever again because you’re gonna get us all killed.”
Donner says he raised concerns about the network’s coverage of Jan. 6 with his superiors, as well as concerns about the platform the network was giving to anti-vaccine politicians. Still, Fox News continued to air content that questioned the facts of Jan. 6, including in a three-part documentary in which Tucker Carlson suggested the riot was actually orchestrated by Trump opponents to discredit his supporters.
In spring 2022, Donner’s lawsuit says, the reporter’s superiors accused him of creating a “toxic” workplace environment but refused to provide any details about his alleged wrongdoings.
“It became evident to Donner he was now being targeted for speaking out against the false reporting on the election and the January 6th insurrection, and for his political affiliation,” the lawsuit states. “Fox News’ management was pushing a far right-wing agenda in the news division, and Donner would not comply with their demands to inaccurately report on the election and former President Trump.”
When Fox News fired Donner in September 2022, it claimed it was because he was late for work and did not show up for work, the lawsuit states. Donner had missed workdays earlier when he called in sick over a reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, but he contends this was just the network’s excuse.
“Ultimately, Fox News wanted to purge the news division of any staff that would not get in line with the directive to only report information that [would] appease the Trump supporters and former President Trump,” the lawsuit states.
A spokesperson for Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Donner currently works as a senior adviser to Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who voted against impeaching Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riot.