A federal judge has ordered the White House to turn over messages discussing misinformation and content censorship with social media companies.
On Tuesday, US District Judge Terry Doughty ordered the Biden administration to hand over communications from top ranking officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
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He gave the White House 21 days to comply.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit alleging that the Biden administration colluded with big tech companies to censor covid-19 comments that weren’t in line with the official narrative.
The Defender reports: The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeffrey Landry alleging the Biden administration colluded with Big Tech firms Twitter, Meta (Facebook’s parent company), Youtube, Instagram and LinkedIn to censor certain viewpoints under the guise of preventing the circulation of “misinformation” or “disinformation.”
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in July ordered the Biden administration to swiftly produce records requested by the plaintiffs as part of the discovery process.
On Aug. 2, Schmitt and Landry filed discovery requests seeking documents and information from the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and its director, Fauci; White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre; Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; and former Disinformation Governance Board executive director Nina Jankowicz.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs also sent discovery requests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its director, Jen Easterly; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The requests resulted in a cache of documents revealing more than 50 Biden administration workers and 12 U.S. agencies had been involved in a censorship push over social media.
However, some government officials — including Fauci — refused to provide records or answer any questions posed by the plaintiffs, claiming the communications were protected under executive privilege.
The government claimed Fauci should not be required to answer the plaintiff’s questions or provide records related to his capacity as NIAID director or related to his capacity as Biden’s chief medical officer. Additionally, the government sought to withhold records and responses from Jean-Pierre.
Judge Doughty on Tuesday broke the stalemate by ruling that both Fauci and Jean-Pierre must comply with the interrogatories and hand over the requested records.
“First,” Judge Doughty said in the ruling, “the requested information is obviously very relevant to Plaintiffs’ claims. Dr. Fauci’s communications would be relevant to Plaintiffs’ allegations in reference to alleged suppression of speech relating to the lab-leak theory of COVID-19’s origin, and to alleged suppression of speech about the efficiency of masks and COVID-19 lockdowns. Jean-Pierre’s communications as White House Press Secretary could be relevant to all of Plaintiffs’ examples.”
According to Judge Doughty:
“Government Defendants are making a blanket assertion of all communications to social media platforms by Dr. Fauci, and Jean-Pierre based upon executive privilege and presidential communications privilege.
“Plaintiffs concede they are not asking for any internal White House communications, but only external communications between Dr. Fauci and/or Jean-Pierre and third-party social media platforms.
“This Court believes Plaintiffs are entitled to external communications by Jean-Pierre and Dr. Fauci in their capacities as White House Press Secretary and Chief Medical Advisor to the President to third-party social media platforms.”
Judge Doughty ordered Fauci and Jean-Pierre to comply within 21 days, and said Fauci must provide complete answers to questions about his role as NIAID director.
In response to the ruling, a Biden administration official defended the administration’s actions, telling Fox News, “As we have said over and over again since the beginning of the administration in our battle against COVID-19, it has been critical for the American people to have access to factual, accurate, science-based information.”
“We believe in and we support freedom of speech, and we also believe it is important for all media platforms, including social media, to represent factual scientific information and combat misinformation and disinformation that can cost lives,” the official concluded.
However, Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense, told The Defender the ruling is “really good news.”
“Up until now, Dr. Fauci has operated under this cloak of ‘untouchableness,’ thinking he has been above the law. He likely didn’t expect his emails to be made public.
“We can only imagine what this tranche of emails will likely reveal about Dr. Fauci’s bare-knuckled censorship — it won’t be pretty.”
Holland said Judge Doughty’s ruling was “even-handed” because he “granted some of the Plaintiff Attorney Generals’ discovery requests and denied others.”
For instance, Doughty denied the Plaintiffs’ request that the HHS conduct a search for relevant records among its 80,000 employees because it would be “unduly burdensome.” However, he said the HHS employees identified in the documents from Meta needed to respond to the discovery requests.
“Most importantly, the court ordered that Dr. Fauci’s and Karine Jean-Pierre’s external emails to social media platforms must be produced by September 27, within 21 days of the ruling.
“Stay tuned and get the popcorn. Those emails likely will reveal how the censorship has worked — and the path to ending it now.”